This photo shows a Lenco Armored Vehicles BearCat G3. Juneau Police Department is planning to acquire one of the vehicles. (Courtesy Photo / Lenco)

Police plans to buy armored vehicle surprise some city leaders

Concerns raised about “militarizing our police force.”

The Juneau Police Department is planning to get a “tank.”

Officially it’s an “armored security vehicle” built to carry people rather than fire projectiles. But the simpler militaristic “T” word was how surprised members of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly mostly referred to it Monday night after city employees were heard talking about the planned acquisition earlier during the day.

Assembly member Carole Triem raised the issue during the final minutes of the three-hour meeting, noting the police department plans to purchase the so-called tank with a grant and objecting to their ability to do so without approval by the Assembly.

“There’s a policy question here about militarizing our police force and I don’t agree with that,” she said. “I think we’ve heard from the community that they really desire transparency when it comes to operations.”

The vehicle in question is a Lenco Armored Vehicles BearCat G3 expected to cost slightly more than $300,000 when built-to-order with the police department’s specifications, Lt. Krag Campbell said Tuesday. The company describes itself as “the nation’s leading manufacturer of tactical armored response and rescue vehicles for law enforcement, military and fire rescue agencies worldwide,” but Campbell said the vehicle sought by the department is “not a military vehicle.”

“Generally it’s for our emergency response teams and our fire department,” he said. “It’s sort of a multi-use vehicle for different departments.”

Campbell said the purchase is still pending, although the grant providing most of the funding has been approved, and the department will likely get the vehicle sometime next year if all goes well.

Among its potential uses are high-risk situations involving people with weapons since the vehicle’s armor can stop high-caliber fire that the department’s existing ballistic armor can’t, Campbell said. He noted Juneau also doesn’t have the ability to go to other communities for resources if they’re quickly needed.

“As technology has advanced throughout the world and these things become more readily available it’s really just something you can protect your officers with,” he said.

The response of Juneau police to threats of deadly violence became a high-profile controversy in December of 2019 when an officer fatally shot a man swinging a chain, the first officer-involved fatality since 2007. Campbell said while such incidents are always a consideration when evaluating equipment acquisitions, the department has been considering getting such a vehicle for at least a decade.

The BearCat G3’s specifications sheet states the all-steel armored vehicle accommodates up to 12 fully-equipped officers, has “high ballistic protection,” and the engine/tires/chassis are designed for rugged rural terrain where “standard armored SWAT vehicles would experience challenges.”

The G3 has been purchased by police departments across the country for purported reasons ranging from natural disasters to conflicts involving “extremists,” frequently causing debates about the “militarization” raised by Triem.

Concerns about transparency were also brought up by Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, who noted police response to protests and other upheaval has been a foremost controversy nationwide the past few years, but one largely avoided in Juneau because the relationship between police and policymakers has been open.

“I think one thing in our meeting with the leaders of our police department was that we were happy to have a much better relationship with our police department than other communities do,” she said.

Campbell said he thought Assembly members were aware of the planned purchase and was working Tuesday to quickly get details of the planned purchase to members — who definitely are planning to discuss it more in-depth.

“I have about 200 questions about this tank,” Assembly member Wade Bryson said. “The moment the public hears about a tank we’re going to get questions.”

Mayor Beth Weldon cut off discussion due to the lateness of the meeting, which was dominated by budget-related items, but emphasized it will be brought up again to the Committee of the Whole soon.

“We would appreciate a picture of this in the meantime,” she said.

Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 22

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, June 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Pins supporting the repeal of ranked choice voting are seen on April 20 at the Republican state convention in Anchorage. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
State judge upholds most fines against group seeking repeal of Alaska ranked choice voting

An Anchorage Superior Court judge has ruled that opponents of Alaska’s ranked… Continue reading

Joshua Midgett and Kelsey Bryce Riker appear on stage as the emcees for MixCast 2023 at the Crystal Saloon. (Photo courtesy Juneau Ghost Light Theatre)
And now for someone completely different: Familiar faces show new personas at annual MixCast cabaret

Fundraiser for Juneau Ghost Light Theatre on Saturday taking place amidst week of local Pride events

Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire
A section of Angoon along the coast is seen on June 14. Angoon was destroyed by the U.S. Navy in 1882; here is where they first pulled up to shore.
Long-awaited U.S. Navy apology for 1882 bombardment will bring healing to Angoon

“How many times has our government apologized to any American Native group?”

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon announced this week she plans to seek a third three-year term. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Mayor Beth Weldon seeking third term amidst personal and political challenges

Low mill rate, more housing cited by lifelong Juneau resident as achievements during past term.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 19, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A king salmon is laid out for inspection by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at the Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor during the Golden North Salmon Derby on Aug. 25, 2019. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Emergency order bans king salmon fishing in many Juneau waters between June 24 and Aug. 31

Alaska Department of Fish and Game says low projected spawning population necessitates restrictions

Three cruise ships are docked along Juneau’s waterfront on the evening on May 10, as a Princess cruise ship on the right is departing the capital city. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Sitka residents join those in Juneau proposing hard caps on cruise ships as tourism grows

Two ballot measures could be presented to local voters in the two Southeast Alaska towns this fall

Most Read