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October 9, 2013

Cullman police receive free armored vehicle for emergencies

CULLMAN — The Cullman Police Department added a new tool to their agency in the form of a 2007 armored military vehicle that required no out of pocket costs from the department, but was valued around $400,000.

The 40,000 pound Caiman MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) surplus military vehicle was picked up from Hattisburg, Miss., and driven to Cullman by investigator Matt Dean and officer David Nassetta on Monday. Cullman received it through the federal government 10-33 program. Police Chief Kenny Culpepper said this vehicle will be an asset to the department and specifically the tactical unit.

“Members of the community may take a look at this and think, ‘Why would the police department need something like that?,’” Culpepper said. “We may receive a lot of criticism from the community saying it’s a waste and we will never use it. Well, I hope we never have to prove that we need it because that means some form of tragedy has struck, whether it be a natural disaster, school shooting or something else like it. In the office, we’ve had a heart defibrillator there for a long time and many people say it’s a waste, truth be told, I don’t want to have to use it. So, just like this vehicle, I hope for continued criticism. We don’t mind it.”

Culpepper said the vehicle will be beneficial in many areas, if certain situations were to occur in the community.

“It serves many purposes and it will be a great asset to the force,”Culpepper said. “Besides being a means of training for the tactical officers, it will be extra security in the time of a crisis, or something similar like inclement weather situations. People can also be transported in it.”

Assistant Police Chief Craig Green said the 10-33 program can be applied for by any law enforcement agency.

“The 10-33 program provides surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies and it is authorized under federal law,” Green said. “It gives us the opportunity to have equipment we could not afford otherwise without this program.”

Although it will be a vehicle for Cullman city police, it will not be used in day-to-day operations.

“We will not be using it all the time, this is not a take home vehicle for an officer or anything, this is something we will be able to use for a long period of time in situations that call for this type of assistance,” Culpepper said. “For instance, if we were responding to a gunman situation and we had an officer that was wounded, this would be a shielded vehicle that we could respond with instead of having to put a shield on the windshield of a law enforcement vehicle and force the officers to sink down in their seats, this vehicle would allow us to enter the area and be protected.”

The only cost for the department on the vehicle was the fuel to drive it back to Cullman. The vehicle uses diesel fuel and gets an estimated seven miles to the gallon, much like other military vehicles or Hummers that are used by law enforcement.

“The department applied for the military surplus vehicle, much like other police departments are receiving military vehicles to be used for tactical purposes,” Culpepper said.  “The officers will be able to use the tool to train with and if they are able to take care of it for 20-30 years, much like a fire-truck, it will last a long time.”

 The MRAP hosts capabilities to hold and distribute tear gas, it has a connector for a Jaws-of-Life machine if needed in coordination with car accidents. It also has an air compressor, basically providing police officers with their own version of a firetruck. The 10-foot-tall truck features its own crow’s nest area that adds about three feet, totaling the truck’s height to around 13-feet-tall. The crow’s nest opening has settings for machine gun capabilities. Inside, it features two front seats, six seating pods with feet bands and straps much like seat-belts, electronic capabilities and an area to hold a large amount of equipment. The holding power from the straps was created for the vehicle to withstand encounters with land mine threats.  

Lauren Estes can be reached at laurene@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.

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