A grant from the Department of Homeland Security has allowed the St. Louis County Police Department to equip its Tactical Operations Unit with a new specialized equipment truck and an armored vehicle.
The two vehicles will help the unit’s SWAT team be able to respond more effectively and efficiently to various kinds of threats, from “active shooters” to a biological terrorist attack. Bureau of Patrol Support Commander Capt. John Belmar said the $240,000 equipment truck and $360,000 armored vehicle were paid for entirely by the grant, but the money was not easy to come by.
“We were pretty stoked about it,” he said. “It is a lot of hard work to not only apply for [the grant] but to be in the position to accept it.”
The role of local law enforcement changed drastically after 9/11 with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and a slew of new mandates designed to help such agencies deal with possible terrorist threats.
Belmar explained that these mandates meant the acquisition of lot of new gear over the past decade, but the county lacked a mobile home for all these items. The equipment truck was manufactured by Farber Specialty Vehicles and is designed to be exactly that.
“It gives us the ability to have 100 percent of our equipment with us if we were to encounter an active shooter, mass casualty event or even a chemical, biological or nuclear event,” he said.
The equipment covers a wide range of tools, including robots of various sizes, breathing apparatus, protective suits and instruments for the county’s “cut team.” It also can serve as staging center during emergencies.
“We can have it where the tactical operations team is, so we have a very small command post within the truck,” Belmar said. “It really gives us the ability to satisfy the mandate to respond as effectively as possible.”
The second vehicle is a “Bearcat” armored truck that has a unique feature. Attached to the roof of the plated body is a platform that can be elevated up to 17 feet, something that Belmar said no other law enforcement agency in the Midwest has right now.
“It allows us to put officers on the second floor of a building immediately, and we can get inside the fuselage of an airliner,” he said. “If we don’t have something like this, it’s going to make a bad day worse.”
The tough truck is capable of withstanding impacts from a .50 caliber machine gun and will be considered a regional asset, available for use by the St. Louis SWAT team and other agencies if necessary.