By Walt Philbin
The New Orleans Times Picayune
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Police Superintendent Warren Riley on Tuesday used the floor of the Superdome to display more than $1 million in new armament and other equipment, largely for use by the SWAT squad in emergency and riot situations, including a fully equipped mobile command post, two armored cars and modern assault rifles.
Nearly all of the equipment was financed from a $6.6 million state allocation to New Orleans police that was earmarked for crime-fighting items or strategies, Riley said.
The city officials said the new equipment reflected a determination by the Police Department to root out and arrest criminals and make New Orleans safer, as well as to help police handle any emergency situation encountered.
The money will also pay for 600 bullet-proof vests.
The 27- and 14-ton armored cars, costing about $380,000 and $270,000 respectively, will provide cover to officers in SWAT situations and help them safely evacuate citizens from dangerous situations, Riley said.
The vehicles, Lenco Bear and BearCat models, will also enable SWAT officers and negotiators to get closer to barricaded suspects.
The city's police have never had a "state-of-the-art" command post for SWAT and other situations, the city officials said. The assistant commander of the SWAT team, Lt. Dwayne Scheurermann, vouched for the equipment and said the two armored cars come with features that "are extraordinarily helpful to us," such as winches to help knock or drag down walls and other barricades.
Nagin used the occasion to welcome the NBA All-Star game to New Orleans, scheduled for Sunday night at the New Orleans Arena. He said the annual clash between West and East All-Stars has "had a little bit of a rough time in other cities, but we are looking forward to it and don't expect any problems."
Riley pointed out that after this weekend members of the NOPD will have worked 12- or 16-hour shifts for 23 days — nearly half of the first 48 days of the year -- to provide security for public events on a national stage, including college football's BCS championship game and Mardi Gras.
"We had a little break after Mardi Gras, but will go into that mode again Friday," Riley said. He said there will be so many police this weekend in the Central Business District and French Quarter "it will look like Christmas down there."
Copyright 2008 The New Orleans Times Picayune
NOPD shows off new crime-fighting equipment