CRYSTAL, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Crystal, Minn. Police Department is set to get a new SWAT vehicle to replace its current SWAT unit, a converted ambulance that is 24 years old and has over 200,000 miles on it, after a city council vote last week.
Last week, the Crystal City Council approved a resolution to allow the police department to purchase a new cargo van to replace their dated vehicle. The current vehicle is a converted 1999 Ford ambulance, that the department purchased from North Memorial for $1 or $2 in 2005.
"It's served us well," said Crystal Police Lt. Peter Underthun. "But, of course, it is 24 years old. It's got over 200,000 miles on it, We're putting two quarts of oil into it every three to four months, which is a big concern of mine. The A/C unit continues to fail, we have to get it redone about every two years. With a vehicle this old, we're paying a lot on upkeep costs for it."
On top of that, as you'd expect, the vehicle has a lot of rust. Also, for its SWAT capabilities, officers say it has "no rescue capability and will not stop bullets." Police say the new vehicle, which will resemble a delivery vehicle, will have ballistic and explosion protection -- which officers say will help "reduce the need for use of lethal force" during high-risk situations.
"This will allow our SWAT operators, our mobile field force staff, and even our patrol officers to go into a deadly force-type situation, remain ballistically protected, and allow them a negotiation platform," Lt. Underthun told council members during his pitch for a new vehicle. "Something they can sit inside and de-escalate rather than have to return fire."
Lt. Underthun told the council the vehicle would also give police the opportunity to rescue citizens caught in the middle of a dangerous situation. The new vehicle will be pricey, costing the department $175,000, which will come out of a department fund.
"This is a fully protected ballistic vehicle, which is where a lot of the costs come in," explains Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering. "It just is a costly vehicle -- that will last us for 24, 25 years, right? We had the ambulance that long, you'd think we'd be able to have this one that long."
The vehicle will also be used as part of the West Metro SWAT Team, which covers Robbinsdale, Golden Valley, Crystal, and New Hope.