CEDAR RAPIDS — In the two months since the Cedar Rapids Police Department has acquired a quarter-million-dollar armored rescue vehicle called a BearCat, the vehicle already has proved its worth.
In that December incident in which an armed subject had barricaded himself in a residence and posed a threat to himself and others, Cedar Rapids Lt. Charlie Fields, commander of CRPD’s special operations unit, said the plan was to use the BearCat to move responding officers and negotiators in to place so they begin to resolve the situation.
But resolving the situation proved easier than expected, Fields recalled.
“We didn’t even get close to the manufactured home when he surrendered,” the lieutenant said. “We had literally just arrived on scene and we were preparing to move in to place to provide some cover so our negotiators could negotiate … but he came out long before we even got close to the residence.”
Barricaded subjects, active shooters, armed hostage takers — Fields said the police department purchased the roughly $270,000 armored vehicle to deal with such situations.
“It’s an armored rescue vehicle,” he explained. “The purpose of it is to get in and get people out of an active shooter event or a hostage situation so the responders and victims are not under the threat of gunfire from the hostage taker or whoever the active shooter is.”
In addition, he said, it can be used to move hostages or wounded victims to safety or transport medical personnel to the scene to treat victims and “stop the dying.”
Purchase of the vehicle was approved in May through the city’s Fleet Service Division. The 2019 Lenco BearCat G2 from Lenco Armored Vehicles. Fields said the BearCat picked up from Lenco in Pittsfield, Mass., and driven to Cedar Rapids.
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The vehicle was paid for using money that has been seized over the years through drug investigations.
“No public funds were used for the purchase of this vehicle,” Fields said. “We used the money that we get through our special revenue fund — also known as asset forfeiture. So basically, the money that we seized from drug dealers we’ve arrested in Cedar Rapids over the years is what paid for the armored vehicle.”
CRPD’s BearCat is the second vehicle of its type to come to the Cedar Rapids area. The Linn County Sheriff’s Office acquired its BearCat in August, purchasing the vehicle for a little more than $297,000.
“Before this, we had no vehicle that could withstand sustained gunfire,” Fields said. “When approaching a target location as law enforcement officers, we would typically use the cover and concealment of neighboring houses, buildings, trees and cars.
“Some of those may be occupied or have civilians in the way.”
With the BearCat, Fields said, gunfire would be focused on the vehicle, ideally leaving civilians out of harm’s way.
Built on converted four-wheel drive F‐550 truck chassis, the BearCat features a shell of steel plating for ballistic protection. It is designed to hold 10 to 12 fully armed officers.
The vehicle is designed specifically for law enforcement and is not a military vehicle, such as an MRAP, said Greg Buelow, public safety spokesperson.
The intent is to us the vehicle when responding to situations involving hostages or barricaded armed subjects, and to serve high-risk search warrants.
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A search warrant is considered high-risk, Fields said, when it involves individual who are known to possess firearms or have a history of using them.
“Any time we get intelligence that calls for a search warrant, we have a matrix that we fill out to determine if the situation meets the threshold of a high-risk situation, which would result in the SWAT team being called out to serve that search warrant,” Fields said. “And, almost 90 percent of the time, that threshold is met.”
And for those who might ask why such a vehicle is needed in Cedar Rapids, Fields said it’s all about being prepared for anything.
“It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,” he said. “We can sit here and say it’s not going to happen in Cedar Rapids, but there were roughly 41 mass killings in the United States last year — and that’s quite a bit higher than the previous year — so, this is not an issue that’s going away.
“And again, we can sit here and say that it won’t happen here, but in May we had four people who were shot and either killed or wounded over by Kirkwood, and by definition that is a mass-casualty incident.”
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