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Jacksonville police request upgraded armored vehicle - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Jacksonville police request upgraded quarter-million dollar armored vehicle

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -

Police in Jacksonville are asking the city government to approve a new armored vehicle.

The BearCat is an 18,000 pound response and rescue vehicle manufactured by Lenco. Law enforcement agencies across the country use it to protect officers and rescue the wounded during mass shootings and other dangerous situations.

"It is the official vehicle of the state department, the FBI, and border patrol," said Jacksonville deputy police chief Patrick Traitor. "If you had a barricaded person, this vehicle will give us a capability to get really close and conduct operations at a very close proximity to the suspect."

He says the vehicle looks like a tank and acts like a rolling shield: perfect for an urban war zone.

The city of Jacksonville already has an armored vehicle, but it's more than 40 years old and has mechanical problems, said Traitor.

"It is in very poor condition. Several times in the last two or three years we actually needed to use it. It actually broke down once or twice while it was trying to be deployed," said Jacksonville city manager Richard Woodruff.

The BearCat would be one to two feet longer than the department's current armored vehicle, considerably taller, and can hold 8-10 officers inside, instead of just four, said Traitor.

Traitor says the best part is police can use it for rescue operations by going into life-threatening situations like mass shootings to bring back wounded officers and civilians. He says law enforcement used the BearCat to respond to the Boston Marathon bombing and the Navy Shipyard shooting.

"I hope from a law enforcement standpoint that we purchase this vehicle and it sits where it sits and just comes out for training operations and things like that. You never hope you have to deploy it in a real situation," said Traitor.

Some people are skeptical about the BearCat's quarter million dollar price tag.

"I mean we got a military base around us, so what do you need an armored tank for? If you really need a tank, just call up the military base," said Ron Harman, Jacksonville resident.

But military code does not allow military vehicles to be used for civilian law enforcement operations, said Jacksonville police spokesperson Beth Purcell.

Woodruff says taxpayers won't have to pay for the BearCat.

"It will be totally funded by drug money that has been confiscated through law enforcement activities," said Woodruff.

He expects the city council to approve the BearCat at its meeting on October 8.

"With all these terrorist attacks going on, Jacksonville is just trying to look out for the community. And I applaud that," said Jacksonville resident Angel Andujar.

Traitor says he doesn't know of any other law enforcement agency in the East that has a BearCat other than the Wilmington police department.

Greenville police are also considering buying a BearCat, and Traitor says the State Bureau of Investigation in Raleigh has one.

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