It hasn’t seen battle yet, but North Dakota’s Red River Valley SWAT team is glad to have a Bearcat in its arsenal of tools.
The team received a Lenco Armored Vehicles Bearcat in October 2009. The specialized armored truck is geared toward SWAT and special operations teams and costs approximately $256,000, according to the Morehead Police Department’s 2009 end of year report.
Its purchase was made possible through a grant awarded by the Department of Homeland Security to the State of North Dakota. Several grants from DHS are available to states for improving disaster and non-disaster preparedness, as well as providing assistance to firefighters. In the case of North Dakota, the funds are further divided before being given to different regions and teams within the state.
According to Lt. Ross Renner of the Fargo Police Department, the purchase of the Bearcat arose from regional needs. Prior to the purchase the SWAT team did not have armored vehicles or ballistic protection even though most of its citizens own rifles due to a long tradition of hunting and sport.
“We’ve had a number of incidents,” said Renner. “And over the years, the more severe situations, involving someone shooting at others or at us, have involved rifles. The truck has really changed how we do things.”
Now when the 20-member Red River Valley SWAT practices civilian and officer rescues, they no longer use shields that were not rifle rated but rather the armored truck.
“We are allowed to pull up and evacuate without worry,” stated Renner, who added prior to the truck there was always concern bullets would go through the shields. “We can also pull right up to residences without being shot.”
The Bearcat has yet to see action, but the team takes it on all their calls and uses it during training.
“It hasn’t been shot at yet,” Renner said, also adding, “I hope it never is shot at.”
All together, the Bearcat holds 10 people and has the ability to carry additional team members on the exterior. The armored truck is also rifle- and ballistic-protected, providing peace of mind, in harrowing situations, bullets won’t penetrate.
It also offers all-terrain capabilities with four-wheel drive. A turret is another feature, but it is not like the image that springs to most people’s minds of a mounted machine gun. Rather, the Bearcat’s turret is just a port. Renner explained normal weapons are used in the turret – the same type SWAT team members carry.
All Lenco vehicles, including the Bearcat, are built on heavy-duty commercial truck chassis platforms and use Mil-Spec steel armor plates, designed to defeat a multi-hit attack from 7.62 armor piercing ammunition and .50-caliber Browning machine gun rifle ammunition. Safety features continue with ceilings and floors that provide enhanced blast and fragmentation protection. The windows are also designed to deflect multiple hits.
Two SWAT teams use the Bearcat, stationed at Fargo. The Bearcat has also served smaller jurisdictions within the state, many of which do not have access to the amount of resources available to Red River Valley. For such runs, North Dakota has even set up a fund that reimburses the Red River Valley SWAT team for such trips, something many of the smaller jurisdictions could not afford to pay. Renner added they do send people with the truck when it makes the runs.
“It’s a regional asset,” said Renner. “If other teams call, we will respond. So far, we have responded outside of our jurisdiction multiple times.”
By Sarah Wright