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12/5/2018 12:51:00 PM
Lake County sheriff seeks $360,000 armored vehicle

Craig Lyons, Post-Tribune

The Lake County sheriff wants a $360,000 armed vehicle but county officials are still unsure about the purchase.

Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. had a request to buy a $360,398 Lenco Bearcat, an armored personnel carrier and tactical vehicle, but the request was pulled from Wednesday’s Board of Commissioners agenda because of unanswered questions. Martinez justified the purchase as a means to better protect officers and civilians during mass shootings, terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

“The Lake County Sheriff’s Department and the surrounding communities face a number of significant threats to their residents and critical infrastructure,” Martinez said, in a letter to the commissioners. “These threats, such as terrorism, natural disasters, violent crime and mass shootings require our first responders to be constantly prepared for any critical incidents that may occur in the area and the severity of the threats facing the region.”

Commissioner Jerry Tippy, R-Schererville, said he had some questions for the sheriff but hadn’t gotten answers yet, and the other two members of the board agreed to not act on the request.

“The Bearcat will be utilized to its fullest extent to increase the safety of our citizens, officers and all emergency responders,” Martinez said, in a letter to the commissioners. “At the same time, the Bearcat will help efficiently progress critical incidents in a much safer environment for the community and our officers than we are capable of doing so now.”

The vehicle is designed for civilian law enforcement use to deal with incidents involving armed subjects, barricaded subjects, and natural disasters.

“The Bearcat is not a military or military surplus vehicle,” Martinez said. “It is not designed to be an ‘offensive’ piece of equipment.”

The sheriff’s memo to the commissioners said the Bearcat, aside from its armored construction, has remote spotlights, a 14-foot hydraulic ram, a chemical-resistant coating, an intercom system and a high-capacity winch.

“The lives of first responders, innocent civilians and even violent suspects are priceless and protecting them is our highest priority,” Martinez said. “Again, this civilian law enforcement vehicle will reduce liability, enhance capability and expand rescue operations, allowing us to minimize personal injury and property damage.”

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