Becker County poised to get $320,000 BearCat armored rescue vehicle for sheriff's office
“There is a need for this in certain situations,” Sheriff Todd Glander said. “Just a few days ago Wadena County had a situation and had to borrow an armored vehicle from Otter Tail County.”
DETROIT LAKES — People are crazy and times are strange, as Bob Dylan would say, and that seems to be especially true for the situations that law enforcement has to deal with these days.
That’s why the Becker County Board is poised to give the thumbs-up to a new $320,000 armored rescue vehicle for the sheriff’s office.
If it’s approved, the Lenco BearCat G3 will be a big improvement over the sheriff's office's 1970s-era armored vehicle that it got for free from Hubbard County a number of years ago.
“There is a need for this in certain situations,” Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander told commissioners on Tuesday. “Just a few days ago Wadena County had a situation and had to borrow an armored vehicle from Otter Tail County.”
That situation ended in the arrest of a 47-year-old Lakeville man, who is accused of starting a structure on fire, pulling a gun on the man and his son who reported the fire, and later firing three shots as law enforcement closed in.
Jason Goble was arrested by officers on the perimeter after he fled through the woods when the Wadena-Hubbard SWAT team showed up with Otter Tail County’s armored vehicle.
While that incident ended without anyone getting hurt, four law enforcement officers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin have died in the line of duty just this year.
There’s no doubt that the BearCat G3 is a solid armored vehicle – it can transport 12 fully-equipped officers, stop 7.62 mm armor-piercing rounds, and use its hydraulic battering ram to punch through a wall and deliver a load of tear gas into a building.
“It can handle multiple 50-caliber (machine gun) rounds,” said Becker County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan May. “It’s a piece of equipment between us and the bad guys.”
And with a lower, wider back door, it can also be used to more easily pick up and transport a wounded officer or civilian who is under fire, while its open floor plan provides enough room to evacuate 20 or so civilians to safety in an emergency, said Adam Douglas, a Becker County deputy who also serves as the county’s emergency management director.
The BearCat would be useful during a weather emergency – be it a tornado at WE Fest or a blizzard that left motorists stranded on subzero roadways, he added. It can navigate through two feet of running water, and can travel over washed-out roads.
The BearCat would greatly shorten response time by letting officers immediately enter a “hot zone” under gunfire in the case of an active shooter or civil unrest, Douglas added.
Becker County does not have a Special Weapons and Tactics team, but these are dangerous times, and Becker County has now joined the Wadena-Hubbard team, and has officers who will train and serve on that SWAT team, Glander said.
The BearCat “would be a good tool for Becker County and the SWAT team as well,” Douglas said, “and I think it would be used quite a bit.”
Becker County’s 1970s-era armored vehicle has a lot of challenges. “It has a very tough field of vision,” Douglas said.
And it has mechanical problems – starting it can be an issue and breaking down on the way to the scene is a concern. It has been outfitted with a camera, but the BearCat comes with a camera that provides 360-degree sight coverage. “It’s just old and outdated,” Douglas said of the 1970s-era vehicle.
“I’d like to be able to say this is a waste of money, but it does happen here – we have had serious incidents here,” said Becker County Commissioner Barry Nelson.
He and other commissioners expressed support for the BearCat, and will vote on it after the request goes through the county’s regular committee process.
If approved by the county board, it will take about a year for the sheriff’s office to take possession, Glander said, which is not unusual because it will be fitted with a number of options designed for Minnesota winters and Becker County terrain.
Those options include a 6.7-liter turbo engine, a heated windshield and a four-wheel off-road upgrade package with run-flat tires. They also include the hydraulic ram upgrade and tear gas injector equipment. It will have an inside-to-outside speaker system to communicate with suspects, and low-profile and scene lighting, as well as a remote-controlled spotlight.
Among other options, it will have four side doors instead of two, a rear towing hitch with winch power, an in-line diesel fuel heater, a high-capacity air conditioning and heating system, and even an armored oil pan guard.
Its color will be “Lusterless Black,” and it will have red and blue LED police lights.
The most expensive upgrade is $35,000 for the four-wheel off-road package. The tear gas injector unit is about $14,500 and the hydraulic battering ram is about $12,500. In all, the 21 options add about $113,000 to the $200,000 base price of the BearCat. The freight cost for the 8-ton vehicle is about $7,000.
If approved, the $320,000 for the BearCat will come out of county reserves, because it is a non-budgeted expense. But the county reserves are in good shape due to federal American Rescue Plan Act money.