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View All Articles | September 19, 2014

She’s a friend to the library but probably not to the BearCat

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On Sept. 4, Imozelle McVeigh wrote a letter to the editor of the big daily newspaper down the street. She lauded the Chula Vista City Council for last year’s budgeting equal funds for library books as they did for bullets for the cops. Then, McVeigh inexplicably mentioned Ferguson, Mo. where civil unrest, looting, and general chaos erupted.

McVeigh wrote the Chula Vista council should “…ask the police department to send its superfluous military equipment (a certain armored vehicle comes to mind) to a scrap metal dealer with instructions that the resulting dollars be donated to the library’s book fund.”

Where did that jump in logic come from? How did we get from Ferguson to scrapping Chula Vista’s armored SWAT vehicle?

I contacted McVeigh and she said it was “inappropriate to have a military vehicle in Ferguson because the tank escalated the situation. The city and the police department should rethink their priorities.”

I informed her that Chula Vista’s Lenco Bearcat armored tactical rescue vehicle is not a tank and it has uses other than crowd control. She didn’t know what the other uses were. It is intended for use by all South Bay agencies for tactical operations, Emergency Medical Service use, rescues, evacuations of up to 20 persons in danger, rapid deployment of up to 15 fully equipped officers to incidents, and other high risk situations.

When I reminded her that the purchase of the vehicle came from a $407,974 grant from Homeland Security, she told me it was ultimately paid for by taxpayers. Even though I went to Catholic school I knew the purchase didn’t come from budgeted Chula Vista funds. It was a federal grant paid for by everyone in the United States.

Chula Vista came to possess the armored tactical rescue vehicle in 2010. No library books were sacrificed for the purchase. The Chula Vista vehicle can be used in the South Bay communities of National City, Coronado and others near Chula Vista’s boundaries.

Expert sleuth that I am, and wondering why anyone would want such a valuable piece of equipment scrapped, I checked Chula Vista’s website and discovered Imozelle McVeigh is on the Board of Directors of the Library and an officer for the Friends of the Library. Hmm.

Oddly enough, the Friends of the Library is the main landlord of Heritage Museum, the current location of the Chula Vista Police Museum. I wondered if McVeigh’s animosity extended to the police museum too. She said it did not, and that she wrote the letter as a private citizen, and not as a member of the Friends of the Library. She referred to the police station as “the Taj Mahal.” I wondered if she had been to the old station where people sat on top of one another and there was no room for storage. Most new police stations are overcrowded within two years of occupancy. Chula Vista was far sighted enough to make sure that didn’t happen. Taj Mahal indeed.

I said the vehicle could be used to rescue an injured person. She wondered why an ambulance couldn’t be used. I said it’s possible for officers to be pinned down by an armed person and it would be awful to leave an injured person lying and exposed.

I was tempted to quote the line attributed to several people, “We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.” (Including those rough men who might be inside the Lenco Bearcat.)

It would be ironic if someday, God forbid, Ms. McVeigh would ask for the presence of the Lenco Bearcat to bail her out of a catastrophe. In response, the dispatcher would say, “We’re trying to send one from Oceanside. We used to have a vehicle that could help you, but it was sold for scrap. Would it be all right if we air dropped some library books for you until the armored vehicle arrives?”