NEWINGTON - A $700,000 armored military vehicle will be making its runs in Newington, although not on the regular.
The Newington Police Department got the vehicle for free, but needed $54,000 in order to “civilianize it,” said Newington Police Chief Richard Mulhall.
“This is a military vehicle that was being used overseas,” Mulhall told the Town Council at its July 22 meeting. “It was used in Afghanistan and Iraq. It would offer more protection.”
But there was a surplus, so the extra vehicles are being distributed to local police departments at no cost to them. And as for the $54,000 that it will take to make modifications, that won’t cost Newington taxpayers a cent--the department covered the entire cost using funds from an asset forfeiture account from seized narcotics.
“It’s expensive,” Mulhall said. “Based on the weight of the doors, they need to lock open, so we’re installing a system that can do that.”
The department is also looking to add blue emergency lights, cameras, bench seats inside the vehicle, and storage compartments. It also needs to be wired for police radio communications. In the end, it should be able to accommodate a driver and passenger in front and a 12-person crew, Mulhall said.
“We look at this as a functional vehicle,” he said. “It’ll be used by our emergency response team. It can certainly be used to evacuate neighbors.”
In fact, Mulhall wishes he had had something like it awhile back, when Newington police responded to a call about a resident threatening to commit suicide. The person had barricaded himself in his apartment and officers needed to get everyone else out of the building fast.
“We had to wait for an armored vehicle to get here,” Mulhall said. “The individual ended up taking his life.”
Mulhall expects the vehicle to be useful in a number of situations during which officers have to evacuate and/or rescue multiple individuals or go out in less than ideal conditions. When it comes to the latter, the most obvious scenarios he can think of are the hurricanes that have hit the state in recent years.
“When we go out into the storms, we have to down our cruisers when winds reach a certain velocity,” Mulhall said. “[With the armored vehicle] we can stay on duty longer and respond to events.”
Even in the event of flooding, he said.
“It’s armored,” Mulhall said. “It’s got high water clearance on it. The same goes for downed debris. We can traverse a lot of terrain.”
But what about maintenance? A vehicle like that is sure to run up costs at the pump, right?
Well, not so much, according to Mulhall. The department does not anticipate that it will need to use it on a consistent basis, so that should not prevent a huge financial burden, he said.
“It contains a standard KAT diesel engine,” Mulhall said. “So it’s the maintenance of a dump truck. It’s not something you use for pleasure trips, so it won’t be used very often.”