City police are ready to replace a 32-year-old armored rescue vehicle with a newer, better equipped model.
The Temple Terrace City Council recently voted to spend about $250,000 in community investment tax dollars on an armored rescue vehicle for the police department's SWAT team unit.
The city plans to buy a BearCat model vehicle manufactured by Lenco Industries of Pittsfield, Mass. The heavily equipped carrier will allow police to rapidly deploy members of its SWAT team, which now includes medics, into dangerous situations.
"We need something reliable," City Manager Kim Leinbach told Mayor Joe Affronti and council members at their Sept. 18 meeting.
Leinbach introduced the proposal on behalf of the police department. Police Chief Ken Albano, Deputy Chief Bernie Seeley and police commanders also made presentations to the board in support of buying a new vehicle with modern technology.
The police department was seeking to replace a 1980 Lenco Peacekeeper model it received eight years ago from the Florida Highway Patrol. The Peacekeeper serves as the agency's main source of armored protection when its SWAT team is assigned to a high-risk mission.
Leinbach said he realized it was time for the Peacekeeper to go when it failed to start at a recent demonstration at Telecom Park off East Fletcher Avenue.
"Frankly, I was embarrassed," Leinbach said.
"I'm concerned about the safety of the officers and community," the city manager said before the council's vote.
Albano also described the Peacekeeper as outdated and no longer reliable.
The new vehicle will allow police to enhance security and reduce their dependence on surrounding law enforcement agencies in high-risk situations, Albano said.
As a courtesy, the Tampa Police Department displayed its new armored vehicle outside Temple Terrace City Hall before the start of the council meeting. Tampa bought a new armored vehicle this year with some of the $50 million in federal money spent on security for the Republican National Convention held Aug. 27-30 in Tampa.
Albano and his top brass wanted to give Affronti and council members an up-close look at Tampa's tank before their presentation. Temple Terrace plans to buy a similar one.
The new BearCat vehicle is equipped with a heavy duty, standard Ford engine for easy maintenance and repairs. It is outfitted with multi-hit ballistic protection to minimize the chance of projectiles such as bullets penetrating its doors, windows, roof or hood.
Temple Terrace is buying a four-door model with dual air-conditioning units to simultaneously cool the front and back of the vehicle. It will not be equipped with the expensive high-tech cameras installed in the TPD vehicle.
The vehicle will be designed with the ability to later add high-tech cameras, police officials said.