The Norwalk Police Department has added a new Special Response Team vehicle by utilizing a government program.
"With 17,000 people and over nine square miles to cover, this vehicle provides our team with as much protection as possible," Chief Dave Light said.
(NOTE: To see pictures of the vehicle, click HERE.)
The Special Response Team had recently been riding in a window van which Light called a "hand-me-down from the fire department. That provided no protection whatsoever," he said.
The chief said the police department had been considering a new SRT vehicle when Capt. David Smith, who monitors the government's 1033 program, came across 12 of these vehicles at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.
The police department was able to secure one of the vehicles at no charge. The only requirement was going and picking it up in Dayton.
Two officers and a street department employee made that trip in February. The vehicle as housed at the street department until the weather improved and it was moved to the lot near the police department.
The diesel-fuel vehicle has been painted, had markings placed on it and will have emergency lights installed when they arrive at a total cost of $2,242.
"It's a six-wheel drive vehicle," Light said, adding the vehicle cannot get a flat tire because it has an on-board air-compressor system.
The vehicles had 4,600 miles on it.
Light said it can be effectively used in an emergency weather situation where the streets might be covered in debris.
"It was used by the military for training," Light said.
Smith said he believes the vehicle is a 2009.
"That's based on information gathered from the alternator," he said.
"I imagine we will get 10 to 15 years out of it," Smith added. "And once we're done with it, we can retrieve more than the money we spent when we scrap it."
So far, it's only been used in training exercises with Erie County.
Smith knows the addition of the SRT vehicle has raised some eyebrows in the community, as did the department's Humvee, which was secured through the same program.
"It was never, ever our intention to militarize the police department," he said.
This item, along with the Humvee and other things such as weight equipment were obtained through the 1033 program which allows law-enforcement agencies to claim unneeded military items.
"This offers so much more protection for the guys than what we had," Light added.
Presently, Capt. Mike Conney, who leads the SRT, is the vehicle's driver.
Light said Officers Paul Gardner and Michael Biller also will eventually drive the vehicle.
Smith and Light estimated that purchasing a similar vehicle, such as a Bearcat, not even fully-equipped, could start about $147,000.