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Police, critics disagree on effectiveness of BearCat in SWAT standoffs

(KSL-TV)



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FARMINGTON — Davis County picked up a $250,000 BearCat, a military-grade tactical vehicle, six years ago with a Homeland Security grant. Critics say rolling up in a military-style vehicle makes a bad situation worse.

But the Davis County SWAT Commander said the armored truck is critical for defending their community against many threats, including terrorism.

"ISIS is coming here. Al Qaeda is coming here. We need to have the tools necessary to combat those things,” said SWAT commander deputy Casey Yeaman.

The BearCat is one of those tools. While police in Orlando, Florida, say the armored vehicle saved lives in the Sunday massacre, the use of BearCats has been controversial, too.

Yeaman said SWAT can control dangerous situations and reduce the level of violence quicker just by showing up in it.

"On several operations I’ve been on, once this hits the driveway or the front yard the person sees that, and goes ‘OK, I give up,’" Yeaman said.

Davis County wants the public and law enforcement to feel safe during a crisis.

"The BearCat is essential in keeping our community safe," said Davis County Sheriff's Sgt. Deeann Servey.

The sheriff’s office deploys the BearCat several times a month, answering calls from all communities on the Wasatch Front.

"Whenever we get a call, we make sure that we deploy the BearCat to assist in any way possible," Servey said.

The strategy is a post-9/11 approach to community violence. Critics call it "overkill" and say a military-style vehicle can escalate the danger.

"This is not an assault vehicle at all," Yeaman said.

Police call it an armored personnel carrier they can pull up in front of a dangerous situation and protect the police inside.

"This is a completely defensive vehicle,” Servey said. “There's not any type of gun turrets anywhere."

BearCats can breach doors with a battering ram and extract injured victims or hostages from a violent situation.

“I was out on an operation where we used it to pull a family out that was being held hostage,” Servey said. “We put them in the vehicle, we drive away and everybody is safe.”

If they encounter a shooter with a semi-automatic rifle, just as the police did in Florida, Servey said they want to make sure they’re ready.

"We want to make sure we have all the ballistic protection that we have," Servey said.

Jed Boal

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