Written by guest contributor Julie Wilson
Austin – On Thursday, the Austin City Council approved up to $270K for the purchase of a LENCO BearCat armored vehicle.
The purchase is meant to replace one of two armored military-style vehicles already owned by the Austin Police Department (APD).
LENCO Industrial Inc., the company awarded the contract, is the nation’s leading designer and manufacturer of tactical armored security vehicles.
The BearCat comes mounted on a Ford F550 truck chassis equipped with four wheel drive intended to provide reliable protection for tactical operations carried out by the SWAT team. The vehicle offers ballistic protection and is powered with an engine capable of operating on a B20 biodiesel.
Manufacturers say the new technology B20 biodiesel machine is more eco-friendly in that it produces at least 10 percent less particulate matter, at least 10 percent less carbon monoxide, and at least 10 percent less unburned hydrocarbons from running on petro-diesel, therefore reducing life cycle greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent.
For many, the eco-friendliness of the vehicle is of least of concern.
In an interview with the Liberty Beat, Mayor Lee Leffingwell said the intended use for the BearCat is a hostage situation.
“That’s the example that comes to mind,” said the mayor.
Leffingwell explained that the City of Austin periodically reviews the need for replacing SWAT equipment.
Although it sounded like the existing vehicles are rarely utilized, the mayor said they’re “very old,” and need to be replaced.
When asked if APD has ever used a BearCat in a hostage situation, or if at all, Leffingwell responded, “Sometimes they bring out a SWAT vehicle in a situation where somebody might be cornered.”
The mayor didn’t provide an example of a previous situation where “somebody might be cornered,” but did say, “They’re used on a regular basis, not necessarily under formal siege, or anything like that, but on stand by ready position.”
Stand by ready position for what? An event like last year’s bombing at the Boston Marathon?
While the every day use is of the BearCat is still unclear, it’s safe to assume the public may be seeing these vehicles far more often than they’d like.