The City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 7, unanimously approved the purchase of an armored vehicle for the Tracy Police Department SWAT team. The vehicle costs $282,000 and can stop bullets from handguns and most rifles, according to police Chief Gary Hampton.
Hampton anticipates the vehicle will be ready to roll in about six months.
Arrayed with armor plating, gun ports and infrared capabilities, the vehicle would be used to serve drug and gang warrants, during standoffs and to evacuate residents in dangerous situations, Hampton said Monday, Aug. 6.
Hampton said the police department’s most recent armored vehicle, an old armored truck once used by banks to transport money, “died several years ago.”
He said the department has sought a replacement for about five years, and preferred a new vehicle to a used bank model, as those can typically come to a police department with a few hundred thousand miles on them.
The SUV-style vehicle the council approved is specifically designed to carry people, Hampton said, unlike the old bank models, which are difficult to quickly load and unload.
Since the department’s old model broke down, Hampton said Tracy has had a mutual aid agreement with law-enforcement agencies in Stanislaus County if such a vehicle is needed. Stockton Police Department added an armored vehicle in May.
Hampton said since January 2012, the Tracy police have asked for outside help on at least six occasions.
“When you’re deploying a special weapons and tactics team, not having a ballistics-rated vehicle really reduces the capability of that team,” he said.
Hampton said it’s become fairly common for cities of Tracy’s size to provide them for SWAT teams. For years, he said, Tracy police have improvised by retrofitting armored cars used to deliver money to banks.
“We’re a little bit behind the game,” he said. “A lot of cities our size added this to their capabilities probably within the last four or five years.”
Phyllis Gerstenfeld, the director of the criminal justice department at California State University, Stanislaus, said though American law enforcement “tends to be less militarized” than those in other places in the world, the presence of increasingly advanced weapons and high-profile standoffs makes advanced defensive technology a natural response.
“You don’t know who’s walking around with what,” said Gerstenfeld, who has studied criminal justice issues for more than 25 years.
“It’s not common that people go around using the really horrible weapons, but it can happen somewhere,” she added, citing the Aug. 5 shooting at a Milwaukee, Wis., Sikh temple that killed six worshippers, and the July 20 massacre in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 moviegoers .
A federal Department of Homeland Security grant allocated by the California governor’s office will cover the first $100,000. The rest will ultimately be paid for by the asset forfeiture proceeds account, which contains items and cash seized by Tracy police during law enforcement activities, including drug raids.
Hampton said that money can only be used to further the department’s drug-fighting capabilities.
“(The purchase) does not impact the (city of Tracy’s) general fund budget,” Hampton said.
• Contact Jon Mendelson at 831-4231 or email@example.com.
At a glance
• WHAT: City Council regular meeting
• WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7
• WHERE: City Hall, 333 Civic Center Plaza
• DETAILS: Mayor Brent Ives and councilmen Steve Abercrombie, Bob Elliott, Michael Maciel and Robert Rickman were present.