The Grand Island Police Department has a new tool at its disposal — a very substantial tool.
You might soon see an armored truck rumbling into disaster areas and crime scenes.
The vehicle, which weighs 34,000 pounds, arrived in Grand Island last Thursday.
Although the armored truck will be used by GIPD indefinitely, it is still the property of the U.S. military.
“Technically, it’s on loan to us,” said GIPD Capt. Dean Elliott. “When we get done with it, we have to return it back to the federal government.”
The department was happy to get the heavy-duty vehicle, which it had been trying to obtain for a long time, Elliott said. It was secured through the Law Enforcement Support Office, which provides excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. The latest addition to the GIPD fleet came from a Marine base.
In military terms, the vehicle is Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP. Although civilians might liken the truck to a steamroller, the military calls it a light tactical vehicle.
GIPD will mainly use the truck as a rescue unit. Its size allows it to navigate through floodwaters and heavy snowdrifts.
Police might also send in the armored vehicle if an officer has been shot. It will be used in conjunction with the department’s tactical response team.
The vehicle will be available to the Grand Island Fire Department and Grand Island/Hall County Emergency Management. When needed, it can also be used by the Hall County Sheriff’s Department.
GIPD could take the truck to neighboring communities in times of need. It depends on the circumstances and whether the Nebraska State Patrol is available.
If people in Central City or St. Paul, for instance, “are requesting assistance, we will try and provide that assistance with the tools we have as best as we possibly can,” Elliott said. “If it’s a tool that could be the difference between life and death, absolutely. We’re going to try and help out as best we can.”
A sticker on the outside indicates it’s a mine-resistant vehicle.
Another sticker lists what might be called the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, which is $705,421. But sticker shock wasn’t felt by Grand Island. That’s the price the federal government paid for the vehicle, Elliott said.
The only expense GIPD shouldered was the cost of transporting the unit to Grand Island.
The trucking company couldn’t use a normal semi to make the trip. Because of its height, a “low-boy” semi was needed to cross under overpasses.
The vehicle is a Cougar model, made by a company called Force Protection Inc.
It seats about six people — the driver; the truck commander, who also sits in the front passenger seat; a person in the turret; and several people in the back.
Before the heavy metal is ready to roll, GIPD will install benches in the back.
The color will remain tan, but the name of the Grand Island Police Department will be added to the exterior.
The Hastings Police Department has a similar rescue unit, Elliott said.
The Nebraska State Patrol has received two or three of the armored vehicles, and will be getting two or three more, he said. They’ll be dispersed around the state.
Currently, when the tactical response team has to move in closer to a dangerous situation, they use what are called ballistic blankets. They are attached to the side of a patrol vehicle.
Those blankets are resistant to small arms fire.
The armored vehicle will withstand rifle and large-caliber bullets.
GIPD has received surplus military equipment in the past.
The tactical response team wears fatigues supplied by the military. Some of the Kevlar helmets they wear also came from Uncle Sam.
Beginning next year, the big truck probably will be an entry in the Harvest of Harmony parade. Officers riding in the vehicle will toss candy to kids.