Printed on: February 19, 2014

Idaho Falls police purchase armored vehicle

By ALI TADAYON
atadayon@postregister.com

The Idaho Falls Regional Bomb Squad on Tuesday unveiled a new armored vehicle to serve eastern Idaho, as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming.

Bonneville County contributed $40,000 toward the $336,000 cost of the 2013 Lenco BearCat. The federal Department of Homeland Security paid the balance, Sheriff's Capt. Sam Hulse said.

The BearCat, in addition to responding to bomb threats, will be used by SWAT to aid the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office and Idaho Falls Police Department.

Sheriff Paul Wilde said the vehicle is needed to keep officers safe while responding to calls involving suspects with deadly weapons.

"It's not one of those things that we're going to use out there and just tear things up," Wilde said. "With the more severe incidents that have been coming up with firearms and those kinds of things, this is a protection vehicle that we can use to make sure the officers are safe."

The BearCat, which seats 10, is equipped with bullet-resistant windows, an inside-air source, a gas-injector unit for deploying tear gas, a radiation detector and a mount for a bomb-disposal robot. It provides law enforcement with protection that previously wasn't available, Hulse said.

"The truth is in the community, multiple times a year we could have an incident that this truck would be very valuable to help defend and protect the citizens and law enforcement," Hulse said.

Bomb Squad Detective John Marley said the regional bomb squad averages 20 to 40 bomb reports a year. Before acquiring the BearCat, bomb squad members would have to carry 40 to 50 pounds of equipment to a location with only an hour of oxygen in their suits. Marley said the vehicle's on-air system will allow officers to get closer to bombs before detonation.

"It will be more efficient and a lot safer for the personnel involved," Marley said. "Just being able to carry the equipment in there instead of having to carry it down with the bomb suit is a big benefit for us."

Ultimately, the BearCat will allow law enforcement to save more lives, Hulse said

"The goal is always life-saving, both for us and for the suspect or violator at the time," he said. "This provides us with opportunities that we wouldn't have otherwise to possibly bring that to a safe resolution."