It’s 11 ½ feet high, weighs more than 18 tons and can transport 15 people comfortably or cram in up to about 30 in a pinch.
The Helena Police Department on Thursday unveiled its new BEAR, or Ballistic Engineered Armored Response vehicle, slated for use in a variety of situations from standoffs and hostage situations to officer transport, incident command and rescues of civilians.
“This vehicle has a multitude of uses,” said Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton.
Maybe most importantly, it could prevent injury to officers and civilians, Dutton said. In a few past incidents, officers have been injured who probably would not have been if the vehicle was available.
“We need this,” Dutton said. “We need to keep our citizens safe and our officers safe, and this will do it.”
The vast majority of the cost of the vehicle, more than $400,000, was supplied by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services. The city of Helena added funds for some add-ons.
The bullet-resistant vehicle — each door weighs about 800 pounds — will allow officers to get right up next to a building safely when they are facing unknown situations.
Police Chief Troy McGee, who led the effort to secure the federal grant, told the Helena City Commission last year that the vehicle was not intended for crowd control in demonstrations and other incidents, except that it could be useful for transporting officers to a scene.
It can detect certain explosives and chemical, radiological and biological hazards, has its own on-board air supply and powerful heating and cooling systems.
It has all-wheel drive and is equipped with tire chains.
“The vehicle is designed for Montana,” said Capt. Corey Livesay of the police department.
It will be used jointly by the police department and sheriff’s office and could also help neighboring jurisdictions. Law enforcement agencies in Yellowstone County, Kalispell and Missoula have similar vehicles.
Area officers have already been trained in its operation.
The vehicles was manufactured by Lenco Industries of Pittsfield, Mass., on a Freightliner chassis.