The Sioux City Police Department received City Council approval Monday to submit an application for a $240,000 homeland security grant, which would fund the purchase of an armored rescue vehicle for SWAT.
Police Chief Rex Mueller told the council the Lenco G3 Bearcat Armored Rescue Vehicle would replace the surplus military truck the department currently has. He said the Lenco G3 Bearcat is “purpose-built” by a company for law enforcement use.
“Nothing that we have is bulletproof. We don’t have armored doors on our squad cars. We have nothing that can stop bullets,” Mueller said. “So, in the instances of barricaded gunmen, or, god forbid, we ever have an active shooter in this town, we would need a resource that would allow us to get folks out of harm’s way.”
Councilman Alex Watters expressed concerns over how the use and purchase of such vehicles, as well as the discussions surrounding them, are “very militaristic.”
“I’m hearing rumors and discussions about that,” he said. “Obviously, in that type of situation, you want a vehicle that can withstand fire, which is exactly why it would be built with militaristic capability.”
Mueller said the department’s current vehicle, a 6×6 MRAP (mine-resistant ambush-protected) vehicle, has only been deployed once or twice a year. He said the armored rescue vehicle would not be a military vehicle.
“That’s part of the reason for seeking this. What we have is a military vehicle. It’s simply a convoy truck. But, it is not well-suited. It’s extremely heavy. It wasn’t built for what we’re using it for,” Mueller said of the MRAP, which the department got free from the federal government and has been using for eight years.
Watters asked if there would be ongoing costs associated with the armored rescue vehicle. Mueller said it would require preventative maintenance.
“Most of these vehicles have a commercial-grade chassis and the manufacturer, then, converts that to what they need for it,” Mueller said. “It wouldn’t be anymore, probably, troublesome or costly than the vehicle that we do have serving that function.”
As the biggest law enforcement agency in the area, Mueller said the department sees “a lot of benefit” to loaning such a vehicle, when available, to other agencies. But he cautioned that there is no guarantee the department will receive the grant.
“Part of any piece of equipment that we have is that we loan that to nearby agencies in the event of things happening,” he said. “When South Sioux was dealing with the grain bin that was about to fall over, we loaned them equipment. We loaned them our mobile command. What the biggest agency in the area should do is support our fellow law enforcement agencies in the area.”
If Sioux City were to receive the grant, Mueller said the Lenco G3 Bearcat would be the only vehicle in the department’s fleet that would be armored. He said the MRAP would be released to the federal government or another agency via an agreement through the federal government.
“Were we able to get it, we would switch one for the other,” he said.
In addition to the $240,000 grant, $50,000 in state asset forfeiture funds would be used to complete the purchase of the armored rescue vehicle.
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