LIMA — It’s not a tank, Allen County Sheriff Matt Treglia is quick to point out, even though it may resemble one.
And yes, it cost a pretty penny.
But Treglia insists that if the newest addition to his department’s fleet — a BearCat emergency rescue vehicle — saves the life of just one police officer or civilian during its lifespan, it will be well worth the $238,000 purchase price.
Treglia and other department officials publicly unveiled the new armored vehicle Friday at the Allen County Fairgrounds, although it has already been thrust into official action. The ERV is intended primarily for use by the sheriff’s SWAT team, and since its delivery one week ago it’s been used in two SWAT operations.
“We used the new vehicle on the morning after the Levels (Lounge) shootings, and then again this morning during the execution of a drug-related search warrant,” the sheriff said. Friday morning’s forced-entry search led officers to attach a battering ram to the front of the vehicle to force open a steel-encased door of the structure. “It would have been nearly impossible (for SWAT team members) to gain entry without the new vehicle.”
Lt. Gary Hook, commander of the Allen County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, is excited about the features on the new vehicle and the enhanced safety it provides his officers.
Hook said the custom-built vehicle sits atop a Ford F-550 chassis and features a V-10 gasoline engine. In addition to the hydraulic battering ram, other features include a rotating spotlight, numerous ports that allow the deployment of tear gas and/or weapons and an explosive gas detection system. The vehicle is capable of repelling chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, Hook said.
Treglia said the department is doing “more and more (drug) raids” each year. He called the vehicle formerly used by the SWAT team an “accident waiting to happen if someone engaged us.”
In addition to its SWAT duties, Treglia said the new vehicle will also be used during natural disasters. Hook noted that prior to the arrival of the department’s BearCat, the closest ERV to Lima was in Toledo, Columbus, Dayton or Fort Wayne.
“The first few hours after a natural disaster hits are the most important,” Hook said, adding that residents of Allen and surrounding counties will be safer with the new addition.
The armored vehicle was paid for exclusively with grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the state of Ohio’s Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison — or TCAP — grant program.
The process of obtaining the vehicle began more than a year ago and is something Treglia has wanted ever since he took office. He has already heard from some naysayers about the hefty cost of the vehicle but remains undeterred.
”The ERV is designed specifically to protect the occupants inside the vehicle. The single goal of this purchase is to enhance our ability to protect deputies and citizens,” the sheriff said.