June 09, 2009
Gaining the Edge on Crime with a New Class of Armored Tactical Response Vehicle
Like a Swiss army knife for law enforcement, the Tactical Response Armored Car (TRAC) offers safety, versatility, and speed of response to officers
Law enforcement’s operating climate is violent and getting worse. From lone shooters and drug cartels to the threat of terrorism, officers from police, SWAT, and DEA to border patrol and homeland security face more violence and firepower. As the bad guys gain access to sophisticated weapons and technology, officers place themselves in great jeopardy to keep the public safe.
What’s needed is a technology that gives the edge back to the good guys. Now a new class of vehicle known as the Tactical Response Armored Car (TRAC), like a Swiss army knife for law enforcement, provides greater safety, versatility, and speed of response to officers than previously possible.
Built on a compact armored vehicle platform with tank-like, all-terrain tracks, the operator deploys the attachment needed for the situation whether an assault platform, breaching ram with wireless camera, grapple bucket, vehicle extraction tool, or custom option. The operator can swap out attachments as needed in minutes via quick change couplers, while a custom transport truck gives TRAC and its attachments the portability to quickly go where needed, speeding officer response time.
When the bad guys act, officers must rapidly assess the situation to prevent harm and bring the perpetrators to justice. To do this, officers put their lives at risk with traditional equipment that requires a compromise in safety, versatility, or speed of response.
Approaching a crime scene is usually done in an unarmored car or van. If an armored carrier is used, officers make the final approach on foot. Crime scene reconnaissance and engagement is also hazardous with traditional equipment.
“Most ballistic vests and shields are rated for handgun ammunition,” says Sgt. Dan Frair, SWAT team leader of the Binghamton, NY police department, which has about 150 sworn officers. “The vests leave the face and lower body exposed, and the shields leave the lower body exposed. When rifle-rated shields and vest inserts are used, the added weight restricts mobility.” Officers carrying a shield typically deploy with a pistol, limiting offensive range and firepower.
On entering a structure at a crime scene, officers are at a tactical disadvantage.
“Many SWAT teams lack the ability to quickly and effectively enter through a second floor opening,” says Frair. “Some suspects have barricaded the first floor doors to thwart entry by police. If they retreat to the second floor, they may booby-trap stairs or shoot at officers as they come up.”
Needed equipment frequently isn’t available at a crime scene due to the high cost of buying, transporting, and maintaining it, plus training officers on it. “When needed equipment isn’t available, the only alternative is to put officers at a significantly elevated risk to do the job when the public’s safety is at stake,” says Frair.
A Tactical Edge
Enter TRAC, designed to handle the full range of law enforcement crises while protecting officers. Manufactured by Johnson City, NY-based Dolmen, it’s small enough to fit in corridors, freight elevators, and high-rise buildings but large enough to carry 8 or more personnel.
The vehicle’s assault platform, with level II, III, or IV armor plating, top, bottom, front, and side protection, with matching ballistic glass, is one of its main draws. To ensure reliability under fire, TRAC equipment offers full manufacturing traceability including mill certificates with ballistic and heat reports.
“When officers put their lives on the line, they need to know the equipment will do the job it’s meant to do,” says Frair.
The curved assault platform’s three large windows give officers an unobstructed view with armor protection, making direct line-of-sight assessment and response possible.
Recently the Binghamton SWAT team put TRAC to the test in two days of unscripted training. Up to six team members fit in the assault platform with up to four standing on an armored rear platform.
“To get a view into the crisis location without the TRAC, our team has had to approach behind hand-held ballistic shields, which provided limited protection for team members,” says Frair. “With the TRAC, our entire emergency action team can approach the crisis location and observe from behind significant ballistic protection, and even make an emergency entry through a first or second floor opening if necessary.”
“The assault platform windows gave our team a safe, clear view of what we were dealing with,” adds Frair. “In a warehouse exercise, ten of us deployed from the assault platform door with complete frontal cover in about 30 seconds.” Since the full-sized sliding assault door is balanced and wheel mounted, it made exit easy for Frair’s team.
Because the assault platform can be raised, Frair’s team was able to achieve simultaneous first and second floor entry of a structure in a training exercise, via a first floor door and a second floor window. “This capability could help surprise and overwhelm a target,” says Frair. “It could help officers avoid the stairs, known as ‘fatal funnels’ because of how they force officers into such constricted space.”
Frair was also impressed with TRAC’s breaching ram, which creates a controlled breach with a wireless camera on the end of the ram. Providing over 3,500 psi, the hydraulic ram is strong enough to punch through steel doors and concrete walls, yet manipulable enough to remove a window shade.
“With the ram, you can create multiple breach points, which keeps the bad guys inside guessing what you’ll do next,” says Frair. “With the camera on the end of the ram, you can breach windows, doors, or walls and look around inside the crisis location without exposing officers. To recon the third floor, the platform can lift an officer to the second floor, where he could then raise a pole camera to view inside a third floor window.”
In training, Frair used TRAC’s armored rear platform to “rescue” a downed officer. “By keeping the assault platform between a shooter and downed officer or victim, you can shield them from harm while loading them onto the platform,” he says.
Chris Governanti, a Binghamton SWAT team member who has operated the TRAC says, “The machine has a zero turn radius and extremely low ground pressure. It’s extremely agile and can conquer urban and rural terrain with ease.” Two joysticks control its functions, one for the vehicle and one for its attachments.
Governanti appreciates how TRAC’s custom transport truck keeps the vehicle and its attachments in one place ready for use and deployment. “The transport truck can essentially go wherever a UPS truck does, and is more maneuverable in traffic and confined urban settings than a truck-hauled trailer would be.”
A grapple bucket attachment can easily remove burglar bars, security shutters, and other difficult to handle objects. Similarly, a vehicle extraction forklift attachment can pick up, remove, or place vehicles to remove or create a barricade.
“Since the grapple and forklift can make or remove barriers to enter or exit, they’d help in emergencies such as riot control or clearing streets of debris and fallen trees after a storm,” says Governanti. “The grapple could tear down a house, given time.”
“It’s a machine built to make our job safer in the most unsafe conditions,” adds Governanti. “For that, there’s no better tool.”
“If I had my choice of equipment that a SWAT team truly needs, it’s this piece of equipment,” concludes Frair. “Its versatility is only limited by your imagination.”
A number of TRAC options help it qualify for Homeland Security grants including Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or Explosive (CBRNE) capability, which makes it HAZMAT compatible; and a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) color digital camera with thermal imaging for enhanced recon capacity. Dolmen provides grant writing resources and assistance on request.
For more info about TRAC, including video of SWAT team training with the equipment, visit www.dolmencorp.com; call 607-239-2737; Fax 607-722-3193; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to Dolmen Corp. at P.O. Box 77, Johnson City, NY 13790.