Culpeper stresses no local tax money spent on SWAT vehicle
Sheriff Scott Jenkins gets right to the point.
“This armored vehicle didn’t cost the taxpayers of Culpeper a penny,” were the first words out of his mouth at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
He is so adamant about stressing that point that he had it printed on the 19-ton, six-wheel-drive monster machine that his office acquired from the federal government last week.
“We got this after a year’s worth of work,” Jenkins said. “This 5-year-old vehicle, which has only 7,000 miles on it, cost $600,000 new. We got it for nothing.”
Jenkins said that he has already had to deal with one irate taxpayer who worried that the tactical vehicle was part of a President Obama plot to arm police so they can take away guns from American citizens.
“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” the sheriff says.
The camouflage vehicle, which looks more suited to the plains of Afghanistan than the streets of Culpeper, was the talk of the town Thursday with citizens worrying both about the acquisition costs and the intended use.
“The need for an armored vehicle, like the need for individual body armor, has increased over the past few years,” Jenkins said. “We have had several barricade situations, one where a woman took a shot at deputies.”
If anyone takes a shot at a deputy in this machine they had better have some potent firepower.
“This vehicle will stop a 50-caliber armor-piercing bullet,” Jenkins says. “If the tires are shot out they automatically inflate.”
The sheriff says that two 50-caliber handguns were confiscated recently during a drug raid.
Drug raids and barricade situations will likely be the primary uses for this big boy, which Jenkins admits will be used very seldom.
“It’s like a big fire truck; if it saves one life, it is worth it,” he said.
Jenkins adds that the armored vehicle has already been incorporated into the school “active shooter” plan. At more than 12-feet high at the machine gun turret (there is no machine gun installed), however, it would have a hard time negotiating a school hallway.
While the vehicle is a federal government gift, the sheriff’s office had to pay about $4,500 (including special transportation permits) to have the monster transported from Fort Shelby, near Hattiesburg, Miss., to Culpeper.
Detailing cost about $300 more.
Jenkins said he used confiscated drug money to pay both bills, reiterating that no local tax dollars were involved.
The armored vehicle, which holds 60 gallons of diesel fuel and will barely push the 55-mph speed limit, is one of a very few in this area.
“Stafford has one and Fairfax has one,” he said. “The state police armored vehicle that used to be in Culpeper is now housed in Harrisonburg, and it’s a long way over the mountain in a crisis situation.”
The sheriff made it clear that the armored vehicle, which is so well built that similar models sought out land mines in Iraq, will be available to all neighboring counties if needed.
“We hope that need never arises,” he said.
The armored vehicle will be housed on the Piedmont Vocational School property and will be guarded 24 hours a day until technical security measures can be put in place.
The Culpeper Sheriff’s Office has also received about $200,000 worth of night vision equipment from the federal government this year at no charge.