HARVEY COUNTY, Kan. Ideally, Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay says he hopes his department never has to make use of a recent large purchase. Realistically, he says the Lenco BearCat armored rescue vehicle is "almost a necessity in these days of law enforcement."
"This is a huge life-saving tool for the public and for our first responders," Gay says.
Harvey County says its commission approved purchasing the BearCat at its Dec. 3 meeting, a couple months after discussions began on obtaining a vehicle like this.
Gay says discussion about adding the potential life saver to the Harvey County community began years ago.
"The BearCat will only be used in the most critical situations,"Gay says. "It is a tool to rescue people in danger and protect first responders in life-threatening scenarios."
He says the armored vehicle "will basically stop any civilian round," whether that be shots from a rifle or a pistol," and protect occupants inside the vehicle.
Previously, the sheriff's office used an old ambulance converted for its use when it responded to high-risk scenes where lives could be at risk. Gay says this vehicle was not bullet proof and could not haul as many people. He says the BearCat will be available to transport an entire emergency response team in one vehicle and protect them from gunfire.
"At the end of the day, we want the most peaceful outcome possible," Gay says. "I want my deputies to go home safe. Their families want them to go home safe. We want people and neighborhoods safe. This helps us do that."
Gay says the BearCat can benefit all of Harvey, but can also provide support on calls in outlying counties if requested.
The sheriff says methamphetamine and the drug trade has a lot to do with an overall increase in violent crime that justifies adding the BearCat to the department's fleet.
The vehicle has a price tag of almost $300,000. Of the $295,418 total, Gay says the sheriff's office plans to contribute $10,000 per year over the next five years and the Harvey County Friends of ERT (Emergency Response Team) will contribute another $100,000 of the purchase.
"I take responsibility knowing this was not cheap," Gay says. "Ideally, I hope we never have to use the BearCat. Unfortunately, there have been situations in the past here in Harvey County where this vehicle would have been invaluable."