Editorial: Armored and ready

OK, Lawrence, we’re about to get our very own armored car — whether we need it or not.

America’s taxpayers collectively will pick up the tab, so the $152,000 expense won’t be borne entirely by Lawrence taxpayers. A Homeland Security grant will fund the acquisition, and it’s not yet known from whom the vehicle will be purchased.

The case for the vehicle is made by Police Chief Tarik Khatib, who says in a memo to the City Commission: “A purposefully built vehicle which protects its occupants is a necessary component of any professionally equipped law enforcement agency; especially one that is responsible for safety and response in a large university city…

“Such a vehicle would increase the department’s capability and officer safety in response to critical incidents involving active shooters, barricaded and armed individuals, and perimeter control out in the open,” Khatib wrote.

It would be a tragedy if any of our officers were injured or killed in an incident in which an armored vehicle would have offered protection, but the chief’s rationale sounds a lot like the arguments offered for traffic signals: Somebody’s gonna get hurt or killed unless you install a signal! And if it’s appropriate for a professionally equipped law enforcement agency in a city such as Lawrence to have such a vehicle, it marks a turning point that certainly means there’s very little reason to consider the Lawrence we love as some idyllic college town. How sad.

Well, Al Capone had armored cars. And one of them, the story goes, wound up being thrust into service for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Perhaps that means some alternative uses can be found for the city’s new car.

Apparently it won’t be delivered until 2013 – not in time to be pulled by Percherons in the annual horse-drawn Christmas parade. Perhaps, though, with astute planning and some luck o’ the Irish, it could power the Sandbar float in the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza.

Seriously, let’s all hope it’s never needed.