CARLSBAD — By November 2012, the Carlsbad Police Department will be rolling out a new armored rescue vehicle for their SWAT Unit. A recent unanimous City Council vote gave the proposal a thumbs-up.
Police Chief Gary Morrison and David Harrison, emergency preparation manager, waited their turn to present a proposal to City Council earlier this month. When they bellied up to the table and adjusted the microphones, to their surprise, City Council was ready to make a motion right on the spot.
“I want to thank the Carlsbad P.D. for a job well done and I think we have all been fully briefed on this item,” Mayor Matt Hall said. “What I think is exciting is that we are taking a 23-year-old vehicle that at some point in time was going to have be put to rest and we are getting a state-of the-art vehicle for pretty much a free ride.”
Before the vote, Councilman Keith Blackburn wanted to read a quick statement that he wrote earlier. “When a situation is too dangerous for us to handle we call the police, and when the situation is too dangerous for the police to handle they call SWAT,” he said. “It’s our responsibility as a council to be sure that our police are able to provide our community with the best SWAT team and the best equipment so they can do their job.”
Council members thanked Morrison and his staff for a job well done in the research of the new vehicle.
“I was pleased and appreciated the council’s support of the replacement rescue vehicle,” Morrison said.
The replacement vehicle, law enforcement Lenco BearCat model, has an array of special features. It will boost resident and first responder safety and ballistic protection, and no special driver’s license is necessary.
The BearCat will be ready next year and will replace their 1988 GMC Brigadier. The current 23-year-old vehicle is a repurposed bank armored car and its maintenance costs are rising. Additionally, drivers must have a Class B license and the Brigadier has limited ballistic defense.
“A rescue vehicle is a standard piece of equipment for any SWAT unit; having the industry standard allows any member of any SWAT team to operate the vehicle,” said Jodee Sasway, public information officer at the Carlsbad Police Department. “The SWAT team uses the vehicle for many reasons including high-risk search warrants, crisis interventions and rescues, and bank robberies.”
Unlike the current rescue vehicle which limited who could be behind the wheel, Sasway said that any member of the specially trained SWAT team will be capable of driving the replacement vehicle.
Sasway pointed out that the county’s Unified Disaster Council considers the rescue vehicle a standardized regional asset, which makes it easier for law enforcement to work as a regional force. This regional asset enables the department to efficiently respond to “critical threats or catastrophic events.”
The Lenco BearCat model has a $249,000 price tag.
“The rescue vehicle will be funded through the Homeland Security Grant Program’s Urban Areas Security Initiative and State Homeland Security Program,” said Sasway, adding that a year ago the department learned of these available funds.
Features on the new vehicle soar over the old one.
“It provides lifesaving armor and an open floor plan that allows for the response and rescue of endangered community members and emergency personnel,” Sasway said. “It will be reliable, easier to use and will provide the needed protection for officers and community members involved in high-risk situations.”