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On October 21, 2015 the Huntersville Police Department completed contract negotiations and finalized the purchase of a BearCat tactical rescue and emergency response vehicle for $30,000. The used armor-plated vehicle is fashioned from a Ford F-550 commercial truck chassis and manufactured by Massachusetts-based Lenco Industries Incorporated. It will provide an increased level of protection to police and emergency medical service workers as they respond to incidents where they could be exposed to gunfire during high risk police operations or while attempting to treat or rescue injured citizens or officers.

The BearCat replaces a rusting and badly outdated 1991 Brinks armored truck as Huntersville Police and Fire’s primary tactical rescue and emergency response vehicle. During the FY-2016 budget process, Police Chief Cleveland Spruill pointed out the ineffectiveness and safety issues associated with utilizing a twenty-four-year-old salvaged Brinks truck as the primary response vehicle to incidents where the lives of citizens or officers could hang in the balance. The Brinks truck is well past its serviceable life and was never designed or intended to be used for emergency rescue or tactical police operations.

Chief Spruill’s request for $82,500 funding to replace the Brinks truck was directly tied to officer and citizen safety and, at the same time, demonstrated a fiscally responsible approach to replace a long outdated piece of equipment. The cost of a new BearCat can range from $205,000 to more than $300,000, depending on features. Used BearCats typically sell for between $150,000 and $185,000. Chief Spruill was able to acquire the vehicle at the deeply discounted price of $30,000 by purchasing directly from another law enforcement agency instead of buying from a dealer. With an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 for maintenance and upgrades, the total cost to acquire and up fit the BearCat will still be under $50,000, roughly the cost of one fully-equipped squad car. Chief Spruill summed it up saying “At the end of the day, we got a $165,000 armored rescue vehicle for less than $50,000.”

One need not look far to find examples that illustrate the safety benefits and effectiveness of these types of vehicles. About a month ago, on September 21, 2015, officers in Rutherford County used an armored rescue vehicle during a 21-hour standoff with an armed man who had stabbed his own father and barricaded himself in a house. During the tense standoff, the man used a high-powered rifle to fire shots at the officers. Although the armored rescue vehicle was struck repeatedly by rounds from a high powered .306 rifle, officers, shielded by the vehicle, were able to continue to negotiate with the man until he was eventually taken into custody. The man suffered only very minor injuries and none of the officers were injured. This marked the second incident in less than 14 months where Rutherford County benefitted from the use of an armored vehicle to resolve a dangerous volatile situation with an armed gunman. In August 2014, an armored vehicle was used during a standoff with an armed man after he shot a Rutherford County Deputy Sheriff. During that eight-hour standoff, the barricaded man fired numerous rounds at the armored rescue vehicle while officers inside continued to negotiate with him. Eventually officer were able to end the standoff without further injuries to the officers.

In a similar incident in Gaston County last year, an armed barricaded man fired shots at officers who were attempting to negotiate with him. Protected inside a BearCat armored rescue vehicle, officers continue to negotiate and were eventually able to get the man to surrender.

These incidents illustrate the added safety and tactical benefits these types of vehicles afford law enforcement officers as they willingly enter high risk situations putting their lives on the line for the safety of their communities. There is no question that these incidents would have ended very differently had officers not been able to rely on the protection provided by the armored rescue vehicles.

The Huntersville Police Department is very grateful to Mayor Jill Swain, the Town Manager and the Town Board who supported the BearCat initiative and allocated funds to add this important piece of safety equipment. It will be used to the safety and benefit of our officers, emergency medical services workers and our citizens.
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