LIMA — Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin and mayoral candidate Keith Cheney are once again talking about SWAT team equipment, with Martin questioning whether Cheney’s goals for the department can become reality.
In March, Cheney pointed to the Lima Police Department SWAT team using outdated protective equipment as evidence of the need for change in the mayor’s office. Cheney is now pointing to the team’s vehicle as further evidence.
“Currently, the SWAT team operates out of a 1985 regular van that has no security measures at all added to it and is started with a screwdriver,” he said. “I would not allow that kind of equipment to exist in my administration.”
Martin responded by saying the unit uses a 1991 cargo van that has been modified for use by the team, but he declined to outline the specifics of the modifications.
“It could potentially endanger my officers by letting out trade secrets, if you will, that could potentially make a bad guy know better how to take them on,” he said.
Martin did say that the van has less than 100,000 miles on the odometer and it is in good working order, with regular maintenance consistently performed on it. The Allen County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team also uses a van for transportation. That team uses a 2002 cargo van, described by Public Information Officer Sgt. Andre McConnahea as “modified to protect and carry multiple team members.”
Beyond the SWAT team equipment issue, Martin voiced reservations about Cheney’s strategy concerning safety services funding and staffing. In outlining his platform, Cheney said that he wants to increase the strength of the Police Department from 83 to 107 officers, but Martin, a self-described “fiscal conservative,” said that could come at a hefty price.
“If we were to add more officers to bring us up to 107, if every one of those officers were on single-person insurance, wages and benefits for the first year under the current bargaining agreement would cost almost $1.4 million,” he said. “If everyone hired was on family insurance, that would be almost $1.7 million.”
While Martin acknowledged that having a larger staff would greatly expand the abilities of the police department to maintain law and order, he also said there must be a balance between security and liberty for city residents.
“There are going to be people feeling like we’re living in a police state,” he said. “At what point do you start crossing that line from security into where people are feeling like their liberties were being taken away?”