SWAT vehicle carries big loudspeaker

SWAT vehicle carries big loudspeaker

March 9th, 2010 by Todd South in News

The rumbling six-ton green machine may look intimidating when its blue lights flash, but the end result is a safer end to a crisis, police say.

"It's definitely not a hybrid," Lt. David Roddy laughed as he sat Monday morning in the Lenco Bearcat at the Tennessee Riverpark pavilion talking with reporters.

The Chattanooga Police Department SWAT team commander pointed out features of the new $1.1 million machine paid for through a 100 percent U.S. Department of Justice grant to serve Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Red Bank, Soddy-Daisy and East Ridge.

The gas-powered armored personnel carrier seats 10-12 fully equipped SWAT members on cushioned seats complete with cup holders. It's even got a CD player and MP3 input.

The armored vehicle can be used to retrieve pinned-down or wounded residents and officers in a shooting situation, Lt. Roddy said.

But the most helpful tool is a speaker box, he said.

The truck's communications system includes a built-in loudspeaker. Lt. Roddy pointed out that often the most dangerous thing in a crisis is miscommunication. Being able to calm a shooter can make all the difference, he said.

Staff Photo by Todd South Lt. David Roddy explains features of the Bearcat, a new Chattanooga SWAT armored truck. The $1.1 million truck was paid for through a 100 percent federal justice department grant and will be used in response by Chattanooga SWAT throughout the city, county and neighboring communities.

Staff Photo by Todd South Lt. David Roddy explains...

"Try doing that while screaming over a bullhorn," the lieutenant said.

Some features of the vehicle couldn't be divulged because of security concerns, officers said.

But the speed, durability and capacity of the armored vehicle far outpace the decades-old light armored vehicle that the department received used from military surplus in 1999, officials said.

Assistant Police Chief Mike Williams said the old vehicle could hold about eight SWAT members and required quite a bit of retooling when police first got it.

"This new one is basically turnkey," he said. The department had sought Department of Homeland Security money to purchase a new armored truck for more than five years, he said.

The Justice Department grant money was awarded to multiple police and sheriff's departments in the area. Chattanooga, Red Bank, East Ridge, Soddy-Daisy and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office pooled grant money to pay for the truck.

Chattanooga police will house the truck and respond to any of those communities and surrounding areas when it's needed, Lt. Roddy said.

The older armored truck still is usable and has one feature the new truck doesn't -- it's amphibious and can reach people in flooded areas.

Lt. Roddy traveled to Massachusetts to watch a bumper-to-bumper inspection of the vehicle in which officials with Lenco Industries Inc. explained the vehicle's features.

As the original truck ages, maintenance becomes more of a problem, Lt. Roddy said. The new truck should last for decades, especially with the expected low use, he said.

POLL: Does the Chattanooga SWAT team need more armored vehicles?