It is said that, when your main tool is a hammer, your problems tend to look like nails. And, if you are friends with the hammer vendor, maybe one hammer is not enough.
Thus, it appears that the sheriff has convinced the County Council that he needs a fourth armored vehicle. These things are expensive, slow, and essentially useless for ordinary law enforcement. Because they are so rarely needed, two of them and a trailer could serve the whole peninsula. Chitwood, of course, wanted to have four of them.
You practically have to make up a reason to use these armored vehicles. For instance, Crazy Joe Arpaio in Maricopa, Arizona, found a way to use a tank to arrest a guy for having too many chickens. Cops can escalate any situation until it is bad enough, but that really is the wrong approach to law enforcement.
Not every problem should be treated as a nail. Instead of armored vehicles, the sheriff could obtain bicycles at a fraction of the cost, allowing deputies to get to know the people they serve. Do not forget squad cars to transport folks to jail, because that does need to happen, and you still have change left over.
Assume for the moment that there is a sort of justification in having one of these things. It may be the law-enforcement form of willy-waving, but, OK, maybe the sheriff really, really wants one of his own. How do you justify two of these things?
And it does not stop there. Somehow the sheriff got a third one as well: Probably no one was paying attention. But $337,650 later, Chitwood is ordering a fourth! There is no word of a quantity discount, or even a frequent-raider club discount.
I wrote about the first one in 2017. Back in those olden days, these “BearCat” vehicles only cost $280,000. However, as the vendor sees they have a live one, the price goes up. They do not pay taxes here, so their involvement ends when the county check clears.
Like I said, two armored vehicles and a trailer could cover most of the state. Chitwood will have four because the County Council caved in. To Chitwood, every problem is a nail, so by now you know what the budget folks must be thinking — our County Council is as smart as a sack full of hammers.
— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.