By Betty Yu

SAN LEANDRO (KPIX 5) – Police in San Leandro are hoping to buy an armored rescue vehicle that can also withstand rifle rounds. Some residents are upset over the proposed purchase, saying it’s another sign of the militarization of local police.

“It’s basically an armored, protected ambulance so to speak,” said Lt. Randy Brandt of the San Leandro Police Department.

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San Leandro Police want one, but first the city has to approve it. And that’s why police took it out for a PR spin Thursday, to convince people it worthwhile if it’s mostly used not for combat, but for care.

“Painting rescue on the side of an armored personnel carrier doesn’t make it any less of a military vehicle,” said JP, a San Leandro resident who spoke at a community meeting Thursday night.

Before the meeting, dozens showed up in protest of what it calls the militarization of the police department.

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“We’re aware of that. Believe me, anything we do, we’re really worried about the perception and the way we look, but when it’s a matter of safety and calling it militarization, I call it safety,” Brandt said.

The department would use the medevac with its partners in Alameda County, including Fremont Police.

Resident Dan Wilson also spoke at the meeting and said, “My concern is you look at that thing and you don’t think it’s here to help, you think, oh God here it comes. It’s terrifying.”

Margarita Lacave, also a San Leandro resident, said, “When you take a vehicle that is this imposing, this scary, which has gun ports and a turret where someone can go with a machine gun, it’s not about safety, it’s about intimidation.”

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San Leandro police said they have borrowed a similar vehicle from other agencies nine times over the past two years. The vehicle would mostly be paid by a $200,000 Homeland Security grant.