Concord Police's SWAT team will make a public debut Saturday, of "Mamba," an armored vehicle awarded to the department from a U.S. Department of Defense surplus donation program.
Mamba is a bullet-proof, 11-seater "bath tub" that will provide the Special Weapons and Tactics team with a new level of protection previously unavailable as a resource in high-risk calls and operations, said Lt. David Hughes, of the Concord Police Department.
"Armored personnel vehicles provide essential physical protection and mobility for officers when they need to contain or confront armed and violent suspects," said Hughes. "The fundamental purpose of any armored vehicle is to save lives and prevent injury. This includes the lives of hostages, innocent civilians, the officers themselves, and also the life of the suspect."
But not everybody is happy with the Department of Defense's surplus program. Critics argue that donations such as this one give police departments the resemblence and fire-power of small armies, according to a recent California Watch article.
Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the Cato Institute, told the New Yort Times police militarization is "disturbing."
"... the line that has traditionally separated the military from civilian policing is fading away,” said Lynch. “We see it as one of the most disturbing trends in the criminal justice area ...”
But Lt. Hughes told Patch the intent of Concord Police is not to militarize:
In the 38 years Concord has had a SWAT team, he said, calls ranging from , to warrant searches and barricaded armed suspects, have exposed officers to the threat of, and some times actual, gunfire.
"Although it may appear imposing, the Mamba's reason for existence is defensive in nature, not offensive," said Hughes. "Just like the bullet-resistant vest an officer wears every day on patrol, the Mamba provides a blanket of ballistic protection to a team of officers, working together in a dangerous environment."
The vehicle, originally priced at more than $300,000, was manufactured in South Africa — meaning the driver sits on the right side — and served in Kuwait during unspecified U.S. Military operations.
The Concord Police Department was awarded the vehicle at no cost through the Department of Defense's Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services, which Hughes said provides donated surplus and used military equipment to law enforcement agencies at the municipal level.
"Mamba wasn't operational when it rolled out of the back of the [delivery] truck," said officer Craig Oelrich, who lead the department's effort in acquiring and restoring the armored tool. "We've worked with many local businesses to restore, paint and add [emergency] equipment to make it field-ready."
Though the vehicle was free of cost to acquire, the department has, so far, spent around $15,000 to restore Mamba and make it operational, said Oelrich.
"We're lucky that local businesses provided discounts and sometimes only charged us whatever parts cost them," said Oelrich, whom along with officers Ken Carlson and Kenny Trimble, spent hours of their own time to perform welding, metal fabrication and mechanical upgrades.
"When we first got it, both the interior and exterior needed a lot of work," said Hughes. "These guys and local business deserve all the credit for turning it around ... making it look good and ready to use."
Local Business involved in the restoration include:
Randy Wilferd from in Concord (provided mechanical parts, labor and expertise)
Kenny Trimble (provided custom metal cutting and fabrication)
Tom Robertson from in Concord (provided body repair, metal fabrication, and paint)
Scott Johnson from in Concord (donated equipment and provided Arma-coating)
Allen Briltz from in Concord (provided lighting and equipment)
Lyndy Enriquez from Precision Tint in Concord (provided window tinting)
Al Viceral from Diablo Valley Signs in Concord (provided vehicle decals)
Jeff Roubal and his staff from the City of Concord's fleet maintenance department
If you want to see it:
Mamba will be debuted Saturday, June 30 at the Salvation Army's event, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The goal of the event is to increase the awareness of the community’s volunteer opportunities, and to display services and emergency equipment available for local emergencies.
The 11-seater armored vehicle will also be featured in Concord's .
Tell us in the comments: Does it concern or give you comfort to see your local police department in posession of an armored vehicle?