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City Council Considers Armored SWAT Vehicle

The City Council discussed the idea of allocating American Rescue Plan Act funding to increase public safety and protection for Jamestown’s law enforcement during Monday’s City Council meeting.

Doug Champ, a local resident, brought attention to the issue during the opportunity for public comments at the City Council’s work session.

“The chief of police made a very important statement at the public safety meeting that I think everybody should understand clearly,” he said. “At any given time, we have 9.3 square miles in the city. There are only three patrol officers on beat. They have a command officer, a desk officer and somebody in the jail. Six people, that’s it.”

Champ encouraged the City Council members to act upon recent conservations concerning public safety and gun violence. Specifically, he urged the council to purchase a new armored vehicle for the Jamestown SWAT team.

“When the SWAT team goes and they have to respond, what kind of vehicle do they respond in?” he asked.

Timothy Jackson, chief of police, explained the police department’s SWAT team currently uses a Chevy van. Asked how well the vehicle would hold up against high-powered weapons, Jackson said, “It wouldn’t.”

“Your officers are coming in a Chevy van,” Champ said. “The chief has asked for a BearCat. That could be funded through the American Rescue Plan. Do you want your officers in the SWAT team addressing a violent situation in a Chevy van? It doesn’t have armored protection. I would hope that you would understand the dynamics of this when he puts his request in. Our SWAT team officers are in jeopardy.”

Councilwoman Kim Ecklund, R-At Large, asked the rest of the council to consider whether large spending programs should be approved at the next voting session when there are pressing issues like public safety and gun violence that could require additional spending to adequately address.

Councilman Jeff Russell, R-At Large, shared his personal experience as a former member of the SWAT team.

“I was on a SWAT team with Chief Jackson for approximately 10 years,” he said. “For those who aren’t aware of what a BearCat is, it’s a brand name of a vehicle that SWAT teams use, and it’s fully armored.”

Russell shared that during his years of service with the Jamestown Police Department, the majority of SWAT deployments were in a “non-armored van.”

“It was kind of scary at times when you’re going into situations like that and you’re in a vehicle that has no armor,” he said.

According to Russell, the idea of purchasing an armored SWAT vehicle was discussed multiple times under the previous administration. However, he said the proposal was never approved because the city lacked the funding. Russell said the cost of a BearCat Swat vehicle would be between $250,000 and $275,000.

Russell said the other reason people have been hesitant to approve an armored SWAT vehicle is the appearance.

“With some people, it’s about appearance,” he said. “People don’t like the idea of that militaristic look of having something like that, because frankly, it’s kind of mean looking. They don’t like that presence or that look. I think we need to get over that, if we have the funding for such a vehicle.”

Rather than worry about the appearance, Russell encouraged the council to consider the idea of providing better protection for Jamestown’s law enforcement, which he believes would also improve public safety.

In the event of an active shooting situation that required a SWAT team to extract victims from a dangerous situation, he said the city would not want to send a SWAT team in an “unarmored van” to the scene.

“They’re not going to have any cover, so we need to get over the appearance of what this looks like and see what it is and that’s to protect citizens and also protect the men and women officers that are going to be using this vehicle.”

Councilman Randall Diversa, R-At Large, asked the police chief and city officials if they had found any state or federal aid that would help offset the potential cost for the city.

While Mayor Eddie Sundquist said city officials are watching for any grant opportunities for the SWAT vehicle, Jackson said he has not been able to find any state or federal funding opportunities for the purchase of the vehicle.

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