If you’ve been wondering about something in your community, Ask The Times is your place to get answers. The following questions were submitted by readers and answered through the efforts of our news staff.
A while ago the Gainesville Police Department took delivery of what must be a rather sophisticated and state-of-the-art SWAT vehicle. As I recall, the cost of the vehicle ran into six figures and all or most of the funding was provided by federal funds. After the vehicle was placed in service, how many times has it been used? Is a police officer or officers assigned to this vehicle 24/7?
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office, not the Gainesville Police Department, received a $270,000 grant from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security to purchase the Lenco BearCat Armored Vehicle.
It was requested in January 2011 and the grant was received in August of that year. The office received the vehicle in November.
Since then, the vehicle has been deployed eight times, sheriff’s office spokesman Stephen Wilbanks said. Those incidents included service of high-risk warrants, such as those for narcotics houses or subjects known to be armed, reports of shots fired inside a residence and subjects who had barricaded themselves.
“Having personally been on operations with and without it, I can personally say that the vehicle has greatly reduced the calculated risks that we must take as a team,” Wilbanks said. “It enables us to more safely carry out
our mission and gives us more options to protect not just our own officers, but the citizens of Hall County.”
Wilbanks added that “the degree of protection the vehicle affords is unmatched.” That protection allows more
flexibility in where team members can be placed during an operation.
The armored plating on the vehicle is rated to stop up to a .50-caliber machine gun. Other features of the vehicle include a system to detect radiation and explosive gases, a breathing system to allow officers to hook up to the air supply if they encounter a chemical atmosphere and a hydraulic ram mounted on the front to break through doors.
The vehicle is stored in a secure location until needed, and there is no officer assigned to it full time.
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