First off, in spite of its name (it's a ballistic armored tactical transport, or BATT), it is not a tank – it's more like “an extremely robust” sport utility vehicle – except it's designed to withstand gunfire and even grenade attacks.
And the purchase of one, at $196,000, for the Elgin Police Department Tactical Response Team is on the agenda for Elgin City Council consideration on Wednesday night.
The proposal comes on the heels of a the police department's weekend announcement that serious crime in Elgin is at nearly a 40-year low.
City Manager Sean Stegall said the proposal underwent rigorous scrutiny within the city by a team of “non-law enforcement professionals” before it was advanced for council consideration. Stegall added that the name of the vehicle – ballistic armored tactical transport – implies something quite different from its intended purpose and use.
“The title belies the more multipurpose type of opportunities that it provides,” he said. “It becomes more of a command vehicle that does a variety of things. It also just happens to be one that is more extremely robust.”
Aside from the need to replace the Tactical Response Team's existing vehicle – a donated bread truck – Stegall said the BATT will do more than “just” protect tactical officers from bullets. These vehicles provide bullet-proof protection as police use them to move emergency responders into, and citizens out of, dangerous situations. It also can be used as a staging area for officers responding to an incident, as well as a command post that, for example, could house hostage negotiators during a standoff.
The city's Tactical Response Team has been using the unarmored bread truck, which was donated to the city for that use, Stegall said. But the vehicle affords little to no protection to those inside during tactical responses to hostage situations, standoffs or riots – some of the types of incidents to which Elgin's Tactical Response Team has been called.
And the purchase of the BATT would be made through the city's drug asset forfeiture fund – monies the city gets from the seizure of property related to drug sales. The BATT qualifies under federal guidelines over the use of such funds, Stegall said.
“We don't have any armored equipment, and you do need one piece for our Tactical Response Team,” Stegall said. He added that the Tactical Response Team is used fairly often, whether it is called in on a hostage or standoff situation or to assisting in serving warrants on individuals believed to have weapons.
“This is for the Tactical Response Team, because they do encounter a higher level of threats, dangerous situations than the typical police officer, because they're put into that type of situation more often than not … because of the nature of their assignment,” Stegall said. “I think that at the end of the day … if we're going to have a (tactical response) team, they need to have the equipment that is consistent and necessary ... and if we're not going to provide that to them, then we're not going to have one. Unfortunately, we do find a need to use our Tactical Response Team ...”
The documentation the police department submitted in support of the proposed purchase also included several news articles about police fatalities, including one published in January about the shooting deaths of 11 officers in a 24-hour period and that the death toll this year so far is on track to match the 162 police officer deaths in 2010. Another of the articles, published in late December, noted that line-of-duty police deaths were up 37 percent in 2010 from the prior year.