SPD asks for $200K armored vehicle

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
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.

Chief says no taxpayer funds needed to cover purchase

The Sherman Police Department is doubling down on its need for a more than $200,000 armored police vehicle following a reportedly dangerous call earlier this year. Police Chief Zachary Flores spoke about the vehicle and reiterated hopes to purchase it in the next year with little to no taxpayer funds during the city's recent budget retreat.

Police officials hope to use police seizure funds to finance the vehicle, but about $100,000 of funds that could be used to finance the vehicle have been tied up in the court system due to COVID-related delays. City staff said the remaining funds for the purchase could come as a part of upcoming budget.

"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 in January. "The expectation is that by the time we move into the new station we will have that armored vehicle."

The need for the vehicle was highlighted during a recent police call in which SPD attempted to capture a suspect in an attempted murder out of Oklahoma who had barricaded himself in a building in Sherman. SPD officers attempted to breach the door with an explosive, but were unable to fully clear the doorway.

"The way that the charge works sort of lays the door down — pops it off the hinges essentially," Flores said. "Instead, it folded and sandwiched due to the poor construction of the door."

The destroyed door blocked the doorway and police access to the building. This led police to make the risky decision to send an officer to the building to clear the way.

"That opens them up for a lot of danger and that's not a situation you want to put your people in," Flores said.

As a part of last month's budget talks, Flores showed a video of Tyler Police during a call from 2010 where an armored vehicle was fired upon by a suspect armed with an AK-47. During the video, bullets can be audibly be heard striking the vehicle as the glass windshield cracks from repeated hits.

Sherman currently has one of the few SWAT teams in Texoma and regularly provides its resources for departments across the region. This makes the need for the vehicle not only a Sherman priority but also a regional one, Flores said. 

The proposed vehicle would be a modified civilian pick-up truck that has been outfitted and retrofitted with additional armor and other equipment. Flores stressed that it would not be a retired military vehicle, which he feels does not meet the city's need.

"We are not that of department that wants to over militarize — that is not what we want to do. What we want to do is protect our officers within a civilian urban environment," he said, noting that former military equipment would likely be less expensive. "I don't think you do that with ex-military equipment. You do it with something appropriate for the job."

Council Member Josh Stevenson agreed with this sentiment, noting that a former military vehicle would not be a good look for the department and it would come with expensive specialized care and maintenance.

Council Member Shawn Teamann added that the regional nature of vehicle and its coverage area make it an asset for all of Grayson County.

"In my opinion, if it saves one life in Grayson County then it is worth every penny," Teamann said.

City Manager Robby Hefton said the department has about 75 percent of the funds needed for the vehicle from previously-awarded  seizure funds. The remaining balance could be paid off immediately through other funding sources, or the department could wait for the remaining funds to clear the court system.

If the council decides to move forward with the project, Flores said he hopes to submit the order in October. Once the vehicle has been ordered, it should take about eight months to deliver.

The department has also previously expressed interest in purchasing a mobile command center — a vehicle that can act as a centralized hub for first responders during an emergency. However, Flores said this likely is a distant goal as the current focus is on the armored vehicle.