The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was granted permission by city council to apply for a grant to fund a Rook, a multi-purpose, critical incident response vehicle.
The forklift-like, militarized vehicle is used to respond to natural disasters, search and rescue, active violence incidents, armed and barricaded subjects, and explosive devices.
The department plans to use it for potential bomb threats, according to Charlotte Harris, director of strategy and budget for the city of Charlotte.
“[We] hope we’d never have to use it, but it helps,” she said.
Why it matters: With a Rook in its arsenal, CMPD’S bomb squad would be elevated to highest level set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
CMPD will apply to the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant program. It provides funding “to aid in the prevention, protection, response, and recovery from terrorist attacks.”
Sacramento, New York State, and Tallahassee are a few places with police departments with a Rook.
If approved for the grant, the CMPD would receive funding to pay for the vehicle, which costs about $500,000, according to the agenda. No city matching funds are required.
The vehicle will be available for all public safety agencies in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and surrounding counties, including Cabarrus, Catawba, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Lancaster, Mecklenburg, Stanly, Union, and York.
City council voted 6-2 to approve CMPD’s request. LaWana Mayfield and Braxton Winston opposed the proposal.
Mayfield questioned the department’s previous need for a Rook.
“Has there been an instance where we needed to have a rook in the last five years?” She said during Monday’s meeting. “I’m trying to understand why we would even move forward with this request.”
Winston told QCity Metro he felt the Rook was “unnecessary.”
TeMako McCarthy is an executive board member of SAFE Coalition NC, a grassroots organization focused on building public trust and accountability in statewide law enforcement.
She told QCity Metro she disagrees with city council’s decision to approve CMPD’s request, primarily because of the vehicle’s potential use during protests and crowd control tactics.
McCarthy said she fears that CMPD may use it for that exact reason.
“I just don’t feel that militarized gear should be used on civilian land,” she told QCity Metro. “If you can’t do [crowd] control with your riot gear, something is wrong.”
McCarthy said there should be stipulations on when the Rook can be used.
“If you get a bomb threat as it relates to a schoolhouse or a government building, then yes, do whatever it takes to secure the perimeter,” she said. “There should be zero implementation as it relates to protesting and crowd control.”