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SPD could purchase specialized vehicles without tax funding

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The new armored vehicle would be utilized by the department's special response team and help provide protection to officers during high-risk calls and scenarios.

The Sherman Police hopes to purchase a pair of new vehicles to its fleet at little to no cost to Sherman taxpayers.

Sherman Police Chief Zachary Flores said the department is considering using police seizure funds to purchase a new armored vehicle and a command vehicle with little to no need of public or city funding.

The topic of the two vehicles came up as city officials received an update on plans for the new police headquarters. The building will have an expanded annex building with room to house these vehicles and more.

"Those are in our five-year plan," Flores said Tuesday. "So, the command vehicle is probably five plus years out, but the armored vehicle could be much sooner."

The new armored vehicle would be utilized by the department's special response team and help provide protection to officers during high-risk calls and scenarios.

Flores noted that the $200,000 vehicle the department is seeking would not be a military-style vehicle but instead would be a civilian-grade vehicle upgraded to withstand handgun and rifle rounds.

"It is not a military vehicle," he said. "Many times what you can do is you can get military-surplus vehicles that are really huge and really don't serve our needs in the civilian environment."

Sherman Police Chief Zachary Flores speaks before the Sherman City Council in March 2020 regarding the proposed purchase of an armored vehicle for department use.

While the department would only need this vehicle a few times each year, it would be put into service in some of the most dangerous situations, Flores said.

The need for the vehicle extends beyond just the city of Sherman and would likely be used throughout North Texas as Sherman is one of the few full special response teams in the region. 

As the vehicle would see heavy service outside of Sherman, Flores said he plans to utilize police seizure funds to pay for the vehicle. This way, the responsibility of a region-wide response team does not fall fully on the taxpayers of Sherman.

Some of the funding needed for the purchase has already been acquired by the department. The remaining funds needed to pay for the vehicle are currently held in the courts and the department is waiting for them to be awarded.

"We know that once the money that is tied up in the courts filters through, we should be able to buy that armored vehicle," Flores said, noting he expects this to come some time this year. "The expectation is that by the time we move into the new station we will have that armored vehicle."

Once the department has paid for the armored vehicle, it can move onto its next project — acquiring a command vehicle for use in emergencies.

"We can see the armored vehicle is on the horizon," Flores said. "Then, we can know that the next set of money that we get from the seizure funding would go toward the command vehicle."

The command vehicle would serve as a mobile hob and base of operations during unique and special situations and emergencies. The vehicle would likely take the form of a modified large box truck that is outfitted with a meeting space, and computer and communications equipment.

"It is kind of like a mobile meeting place. When we have situations that dictate multi-agency response of multiple units of the department to respond, it is good for us to have a location where we can all get together, meet and communicate," Flores said.

The command vehicle would likely see more use by the department than the armored vehicle and can be utilized in a variety of scenarios. As an example, Flores said the vehicle would have likely been used in response to a fatality wreck in late December that left a vehicle submerged in a drainage ditch along U.S. Highway 75.

"That would have been the perfect situation where I could just walk in and get updates as they were coming in," Flores said. "Instead, we were standing out in the rain trying to figure out what was going on."

The department has a similar command vehicle already at its disposal. However, it is contained in a trailer, which makes it difficult to deploy, Flores said. 

Rather than simply driving it to a scene, the trailer must first be connected to a vehicle and then transported.

"By the time you get that done, the situation is already progressing."

The command vehicle will cost the department between $300,000 and $400,000. The majority of these funds will come from seizures, but Flores would not rule out the use of some city funding.

"As we get closer down the road, we may ask for some matching funds from the general fund," he said.