A divided Brunswick Town Council on Monday said it needs to hear more from citizens about the police department’s request to spend $380,000 on a BearCat vehicle before making a decision.

The council voted 8-1 to hold a public hearing at its next meeting on Feb. 20 about the potential purchase. Newly elected Councilor Nathan MacDonald was the lone dissenting vote, saying his mind is already made up.

“It is not necessary for our town of 20,000 people to have a military vehicle,” MacDonald said. “I don’t think it’s an appropriate use of funds.”

California Shooting Fugitive

A Placer County Sheriff’s Department BearCat armored vehicle drives down Greenbrae Road in Rocklin, California, on July 9, 2023. Sara Nevis / The Sacramento Bee via AP

The BearCat, produced by Massachusetts-based Lenco, is an armored truck that can fit 10-12 officers. The company produces several models for first responders and the military.

Brunswick police want to purchase one to replace its Peacekeeper armored vehicle, which was produced in 1979 for the U.S. military and donated to the town in 2015. Police Chief Scott Stewart said the Peacekeeper frequently breaks down and many repair parts aren’t available.

“We understand the price of this BearCat is high, but this rescue vehicle will greatly increase the safety of civilians and officers when responding to some of the most dangerous calls we go to,” police Cmdr. Paul Hansen told the council.


He said the Peacekeeper is typically deployed to armed standoffs, where it can be positioned to shield officers and allow them to communicate with suspects. It was used eight times last year, including in the Lewiston mass shooting, twice in 2022 and twice in 2021, he said.

Councilor David Watson, a former Brunswick police officer, said the council should approve the BearCat purchase.

“This vehicle can save lives,” he said. “I’ll put a person’s life over money any day of the week.”

MacDonald argued the vehicle isn’t used enough to justify the $380,000 price tag.

“That is a very large expense for an infrequently used item,” he said.

MacDonald said he received more than 30 emails from constituents opposed to the purchase.


During public comment on the subject Monday, one person opposed the purchase and another supported it.

Peach Cushing said the money would be better spent on things like crime reduction measures.

“We could spend this money on things we’ve committed to improving in this community, whether that be the affordable housing fund, whether that be the Climate Action Plan,” he said. “There are a lot of different resources we should be using this money for rather than further militarizing our police department.”

Clint Thompson, a retired Maine Marine Patrol officer, said an armored vehicle is a regional asset for unexpected situations.

“What the police department doesn’t have is a crystal ball to predict what situations they may be involved in,” he told the council. “Brunswick responds to a lot of incidents that are outside the town and that is something you should consider with this purchase.”

A handful of Maine law enforcement agencies have armored vehicles. The closest to Brunswick is the Portland Police Department, which has a BearCat. If a situation does arise in Brunswick where an armored vehicle is needed and the Peacekeeper is out of commission, Hansen said it could take an hour or longer for Portland’s BearCat to make it to Brunswick.


Watson raised the possibility of an incident at a Brunswick school.

“You’re talking one to two hours to respond to protect our young people,” he told the audience. “Is that what you really want?”

Hansen said last year, the Peacekeeper was deployed four times to incidents outside Brunswick.

Councilor Steve Weems emphasized Brunswick’s armored vehicle is a regional asset and suggested surrounding law enforcement agencies contribute to the purchase. He also asked Hansen if the Peacekeeper’s engine could be replaced, while Councilor Sande Updegraph asked if there are used BearCats police could purchase. Hansen said police will research those questions and present their findings to officials ahead of the Feb. 20 public hearing. The commander said the department also will provide more information about a Department of Homeland Security grant it plans to apply for to cover part of the BearCat’s purchase if it’s approved.

Council Chairperson Abby King said the council needs to weigh the public’s input.

“The primary question … is whether this is something Brunswick residents support or not,” she said. “There are strong emotions on both sides. And to me, that always means it’s time to … collect feedback from people.”

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