By Betsy Simon
The Dickinson Press, N.D.
MANNING, N.D. — When the doors — painted a light shade of Army green — opened, five Dunn County commissioners filed inside a military-looking tanker parked in the lot here at the Dunn County Courthouse.
After all of the commissioners had tested out the seating and Commissioner Glenn Eckelberg had slipped through the lookout station at the top of the Bear Cat SWAT vehicle Wednesday, the commission gave a thumbs up to the purchase by the Southwest Tactical Team, which consists of officers from the Dickinson Police Department and other surrounding agencies who respond to critical incidents across southwest North Dakota.
"There is so much more to law enforcement and policing than people even know," said Commissioner Donna Scott, after climbing out of the vehicle to take an outside view of the massive machine.
While the vehicle's massive tires and other accessories are intriguing to the untrained eye, Sgt. Mike Hanel with the Dickinson Police Department showcased the recently obtained armored vehicle to the Dunn County commissioners at their meeting.
The vehicle — the first G3 off-road vehicle model built on a Ford F-550 frame weighing about 19,000 pounds — costs more than $200,000 and was a joint purchase by Dunn, Stark and Billings counties and the city of Dickinson, all of which chipped in money last year for the purchase for operations conducted by the SWTT.
Similar vehicles are also used by SWAT teams in other North Dakota cities, such as Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot.
Hanel said the vehicle is built to get around 90 miles per gallon, while it is suggested that drivers go no faster than 60 miles per hour.
"All of the windows on the vehicle are ballistic capable and even if a suspect would shoot at the tires, this vehicle can still keeping on driving," Hanel said, as he explained how each accessory on the Bear Cat helps to aid law enforcement when they are called out to an emergency situation. "We hope that we never have to use it, but if there is a situation where we are force to, it will help to increase our survivability."
The Bear Cat, Hanel added, will serve as an additional line of protection for officers should they find themselves involved in an emergency situation.
"We'd like to stay crime-free and not need something like this," Hanel said. "But we have learned that that may not be possible and this vehicle will help keep our officers safe when that time comes."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2013 the Dickinson Press