Texas police to get armored vehicle

City Council gives $227K of surplus money

By Greg Kendall-Ball
Abilene Reporter-News

ABILENE, Texas — The Abilene City Council is setting aside roughly $227,000 to purchase an armored vehicle for the Abilene Police Department.

The funds are part of more than $5 million generated by higher than expected sales tax revenues, roofing permits and costsaving measures from last fiscal year.

The council Thursday told Police Chief Stan Standridge the department could pursue the purchase of the armored vehicle, something Standridge said has been on his wish list for a while.

"I'm respectful of the fact that the City Council had to make some tough decisions as it relates to how to use these funds," Standridge said. "I'm not saying that an armored vehicle is any more important than any of these unfunded needs, but I do firmly believe there is a need in the community for police to possess an armored vehicle."

The vehicle would be used in a variety of situations in the 19-county region served by the APD SWAT team and bomb squad, he said.

It would be capable of carrying eight to 10 officers in a compartment rated to withstand shots from weapons ranging up to a .50-caliber rifle. The vehicle could be used for rescuing injured officers or civilians during a firefight with a barricaded subject, delivering SWAT operators to various locations, and for serving warrants to high-risk suspects, he said.

It also would provide a safe space for negotiating with armed suspects, compared with the current practice of standing outside behind a patrol vehicle, which offers very little ballistic protection, Standridge said.

"(The vehicle) will give our officers the ability to combat worse-case scenarios because it isn't a matter of 'if,' it's a matter of 'when' these events will unfold," he said. "Violent crime does exist in Abilene and officers serve as the tip of the spear in relation to responding to those crimes. An armored vehicle would give us protection regarding critical incidents and allow us to rescue citizens or first responders who may be down during a critical incident."

In the past five years, the APD SWAT team has been called out 31 times. In 2011 there were 427 violent offenses, 358 armed suspect calls and four barricaded incidents, Standridge reported.

Speaking to the council Thursday, Standridge referred to the Tyler and Odessa police departments, which have armored vehicles and have used them to help mitigate violent situations.

"I hope such incidents never happen in Abilene, but I cannot plan for the normal. The Abilene Police Department must be prepared to effectively respond to any crisis, because help is hours away," he said. Standridge said there is no armored vehicle within a two-and-a-half hour drive of Abilene.

Sgt. David Hall of the Tyler Police Department said the department acquired its Lenco BearCat armored vehicle (a model that retails for about $226,000 according to the manufacturer's website) about 18 months ago, and it has already paid for itself many times over.

"Our SWAT team serves seven counties in our region, and recently we used it to help the sheriff's department in one of those counties," Hall said. "They were going to send six deputies in regular patrol cars up to execute a search warrant at a man's house. The man showed an AK-47, so they called us for assistance. We showed up, and our vehicle took 42 rounds from the AK before it was all over."

In 2004, Hall said, a Tyler officer was shot, and the cost of the hospital bills and rehab totaled more than $200,000.

"If it saved even the life of just one officer, it's paid for itself. You can't put a price on a person's life, whether an officer or a civilian," Hall said.

Cpl. Sherrie Carruth of the Odessa Police Department said its vehicle, dubbed "The Rock," was acquired about three years ago in response to an increase in violent crime.

"On an incident in West Odessa, about a year-anda- half ago, ODP responded to assist deputies that had been fired upon by a suspect with a high-caliber weapon," Carruth said. "'The Rock' was struck numerous times but bullets never penetrated it and SWAT was able to retrieve deputies who had been wounded and in the line of fire."

Standridge said he would explore the possibility of working with Taylor County officials to share the expense of the vehicle, and hoped to begin the bid process within the next 60 days.

Copyright 2012 The E.W. Scripps Company

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