Rock County officials show off $195,000 armored vehicle
BELOIT The next time somebody holes up in a house in Rock County with a gun and refuses to surrender, chances are the SWAT team will arrive in an armored vehicle.
The sheriff’s office and Beloit and Janesville police departments showed off their new Lenco BearCat armored vehicle Thursday in Beloit.
Officials said the truck will carry SWAT teams into action and victims away from danger.
“It’s going to keep all Rock County residents a little safer than they were in the past,” Sheriff Bob Spoden said.
Spoden said he hoped the vehicle would never be used, but officials said they’re likely to call out the BearCat whenever an armed person refuses to surrender to officers.
The three agencies shared the $194,708 cost, using federal drug-seizure dollars and no tax dollars, officials said.
The BearCat will serve the entire county’s population, about 160,000, officials said.
“Bottom line is, we don’t need three of these. In Rock County, we need one,” said Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore.
“Each of our departments has a responsibility to our community to keep them safe. In doing so, we send our officers into very dangerous situations,” Moore said.
“Along with that we have a responsibility to our police officers, when we send them into these situations, that we keep them as safe as we can. And the way that we do that is we give them good training and we provide good equipment, and this is a very important piece of equipment to keep our officers safe.”
Beloit Police Chief Norm Jacobs said it is “not likely” the BearCat would be used for crowd control. Spoden said he couldn’t image a crowd-control situation in which it would be needed.
The vehicle isn’t brand new. Lenco Industries built it in 2009 and sold it to the U.S. Navy. The company got it back, refurbished it and sold it to the local agencies.
Local SWAT-trained officers have used BearCats for several years, borrowing them from Dane County or Winnebago County, Ill., officials said.
The BearCat will be stored in Beloit and loaned to any Rock County law enforcement agency that needs it. It also could be loaned to surrounding counties, including Dane or Winnebago counties if a situation calls for more than one vehicle, officials said.
Walworth County is on track to obtain a similar vehicle this year or in 2014, according to a fact sheet handed out Thursday.
Officers will continue to train on the BearCat, but training costs should be no more than the existing costs of training SWAT officers, officials said. Vehicle maintenance will depend on how often the BearCat is used.
Capt. Bill Tyler of the Beloit Police Department said the BearCat would be ready for use today.
Officials plan to display the BearCat during a National Night Out event in August, and it might show up in local parades.