City to buy off-road vehicle for SWAT team
When responding to trouble in a nine-ton armored vehicle, the last thing police want is to get stuck.
To avoid that scenario, Pasadena is buying an off-road Lenco Bearcat for the police department's SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team.
To be purchased from Lenco Armored Vehicles in Pittsfield, Mass., the Bearcat will be built on a Ford F-550 chassis, said Lt. John Dombrowa, who oversees Pasadena's police vehicle fleet.
It's similar to a vehicle Baytown has, but ours has an off-road package on it," Dombrowa said. It's kind of standard so we can work on it and keep it running."
Pasadena City Council on Tuesday allocated $295,000 for the vehicle that will be the Houston area's only armored unit with off-road capacity, according to the council information packet.
The purchase will be funded by an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant from the Houston-Galveston Area Council.
With all the industry right here on the (ship) channel, and the (large) population of Harris County, we're looking to be a contributor for special operations in the whole community," said Dombrowa, also Pasadena's special operations patrol commander.
We're doing a joint training exercise with Houston later in the month," he said.
In a memo included in the council packet, Dombrowa said Pasadena police had requested the off-road feature because armored vehicles from neighboring agencies sometimes get stuck during operations.
The specified unit is available only from Lenco, Dombrowa's memo said.
In a phone interview, company owner and president Len Light said the Bearcat has become the standard for SWAT team trucks since Lenco started making them in the late 1990s.
It has allowed police to respond to these very dangerous situations in which somebody is in a house with a gun, shooting or threatening to shoot," Light said. They need to get up close, to pull up onto a lawn. Armored vehicles need to maintain mobility."
As an example, Dombrowa cited the July 2009 standoff at a rural Baytown mobile home. Chambers County Sheriff's Deputy Shane Detwiler was shot to death by a gunman who also died during the nine-hour incident.
They used an armored vehicle to rescue people from surrounding trailers," Dombrowa said.
Before Lenco started making armored vehicles for U.S. law enforcement, police often relied upon inadequate military surplus, Light said.The armor level was not up to today's weapons," Light said. These high-powered weapons can go through a house and into the next house. I really like it when you see police using (the Bearcat) as a means to rescue civilians."
Pasadena's efforts to get a grant for an off-road armored vehicle date back to 2002, Dombrowa's memo stated.
Last year, Pasadena police borrowed Baytown's armored vehicle three times, once to assist La Porte and twice with barricaded subjects in Pasadena, he said.
We used the vehicle to make approaches to the house safely, either to deliver a throw phone' or do whatever you need to do," he said.
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