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Cambridge Police Get Rid Of Camo, Some Rifles, And Less-Lethal Weapons Because Activist Said They Had Too Many

Cambridge, MA – The Cambridge Police Department announced Tuesday that it would lose the camouflage SWAT gear, get rid of 20 percent of its arsenal of high-powered guns, and dump 30 percent of its less-lethal weapons after an activist complained about their inventory.

“Following community conversations around department inventory, the Cambridge Police Department will no longer wear camouflage uniforms, which were most commonly used during Special Response Team operations,” Cambridge police posted to its official Facebook page on Feb. 16.

“We also are in the process of reducing our number of long guns and less-than-lethal weapons,” Cambridge police added.

The move came in response to an outcry by a local activist after the Cambridge Police Department released a property inventory in July of 2020, the Cambridge Chronicle reported.

The inventory showed that the police department had 64 Colt M4 rifles, 11 sniper rifles, and a Lenco Bearcat armored tactical vehicle.

Activist Loren Crowe took to Twitter to criticize what he called “so much military equipment” and to complain the Cambridge police had lied when they told the city council they didn’t have military equipment.

Crowe, a military veteran who served in Afghanistan for two years, compared the department’s stash of weapons to that of military units.

“Far from having no military equipment, @CambridgePolice has lots of military equipment,” the activist tweeted. “They have assault rifles, light machines guns, grenades, and camouflage uniforms. They have an armored vehicle that belongs in Afghanistan.”

In the series of since-deleted tweets, Crowe accused the department of having sent the Bearcat “to a peaceful BLM event to show people who’s boss.”

“What are they getting ready for? What do they think of the city they’re hired to police? Are we that much of a threat? Is this what we want? What does the image of a warrior cop teach our children about the police? Are they dangerous?” the activist tweeted.

Anti-police activists responded with outrage and demanded the police department be disarmed, defunded, and in the case of one group, abolished, and local politicians responded.

“Thanks Loren. This list is disturbing,” Cambridge City Councilor Marc McGovern tweeted. “I had no idea we had all of this. I admit that there may be good explanations for some but this list is excessive. Thank you for your advocacy.”

Cambridge Police Commissioner Dr. Branville Bard said at the time that he didn’t think the weapons inventory was excessive but said he was open to discussing possible changes, the Cambridge Chronicle reported.

Former Cambridge Mayor Anthony Galluccio set up a lunch for Commissioner Bard and Crowe.

Though he admitted he was initially skeptical of the city’s top cop, Crowe told the Cambridge Chronicle that the two bonded over shared challenges in their own experiences.

“There’s a lot of overlap in hiring between the military and local police forces. During my time in the Army, the organization was in transition, around the mid-2000s,” Crowe explained. “There was a lot of organizational introspection about culture, methods and mission, and a lot of difficult change.”

Commissioner Bard and Crowe met twice more and exchanged email and phone calls, the Cambridge Chronicle reported.

“He’s obviously extremely well-educated in his profession,” the activist said. “I was impressed that he was willing to listen because, let’s be real, who the hell am I? I’m not in charge of a group; I’m an individual. I appreciated that he took the time to talk to me, and that things actually came of it.”

Crowe’s advocacy appeared to have had a dramatic effect on the Cambridge police commissioner, the Cambridge Chronicle reported.

On Feb. 16, Commissioner Bard announced he would be eliminating the department’s use of camouflage uniforms and said he had identified 20 percent of the department’s high-powered weapons that could be removed from the inventory.

That included long guns like sniper rifles, M4s, and shotguns, according to the Cambridge Chronicle.

The police commissioner also said he would reduce the department’s arsenal of a less-lethal weapons by 30 percent.

He said he planned to eliminate out-of-date shotguns and rubber rounds, among other less-lethal tactical items, the Cambridge Chronicle reported.

Commissioner Bard refused, however, to cave to the activist’s demands to get rid of the Bearcat tactical vehicle.

He said the armored vehicle was acquired after the Boston Marathon bombing and was considered a regional asset, the Cambridge Chronicle reported.

But the police commissioner allowed that the department was investigating alternatives to the Bearcat.

“The two things that police officers hate are change and the way things are. We tend to be indignant when we should be introspective. When that change seeks to hold us accountable, or threatens our authority, or places checks on our power, it’s not surprising that people fight even harder against it,” Commissioner Bard said, according to the Cambridge Chronicle.

“But that really does us a disservice. We always have to be willing to have those tough conversations. It will help us improve our service and product and we should welcome that,” he added.

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Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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