Tenn. police get new mobile crisis center

By Robert Wilson
The Knoxville News-Sentinel

MARYVILLE, Tenn. Completing a two-year journey from concept to delivery, a sparkling new Mobile Command and Communications Center was officially delivered to the Blount County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, who was instrumental in getting federal funding for most of the vehicle's $360,000 cost, said the expenditure is an example of where law enforcement funds can be most effectively spent - at the local level.

Blount County Sheriff Jim Berrong said the Mobile Command Center, a nearly 40-foot black vehicle with an array of sophisticated communications and observation equipment, arrived late Tuesday.

It replaces a 20-foot trailer the agency had been using since the mid-1990s.

The unit was constructed by Loyalty Mobile Innovations Inc. of Gallatin, Tenn., on a Freightliner MT-55 chassis with a Cummins diesel engine.

It has twin slide-outs on the left side to increase interior space and a video camera on a telescoping mast on the rear so that personnel inside the unit can observe happenings at a critical incident scene close up but from some distance away.

Inside, there are multiple video screens that can display television or computer images, plus electronic gear that allows seamless communication between several emergency agencies that may converge on a scene using different radio frequencies.

Power is supplied by a 15-kilowatt generator, according to Ken Lewellyn, vice president of Loyalty. The generator is capable of powering all the electronic equipment, plus the three roofmounted air conditioners and interior and exterior lights.

Duncan handed the keys over to Berrong at a media event Wednesday morning at the Blount County Justice Center, saying that he believes the United States "should be spending most law enforcement dollars at the local level."

The vehicle was paid for largely through a $246,661 federal homeland security grant that Duncan said was made available through the U.S. Justice Department. The rest of the cost came from drug funds the Sheriff's Office has seized in the course of its investigations. No taxpayer dollars were involved, Berrong said.

The mobile center will be used at prolonged emergency situations, as well as at sobriety checkpoints, according to a Sheriff's Office statement. 
Copyright 2007 Knoxville News-Sentinel

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