The Goldsboro Police Department acquired a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected military vehicle this week with the intention to use it for high-water rescues, SWAT and Emergency Response Team operations and to conduct video surveillance in high crime areas, Police Chief Mike West said.
West stressed that the surplus vehicle will be used primarily for high-water rescues, and said it will begin being used for video surveillance soon.
West added that he is well-aware of the intimidating impression the vehicle gives people.
"I know, I'm hearing feedback already that it's a menacing looking vehicle, and it's too militarized, and people might be put off by that, but I've got to get around that, and I don't know how we are going to get around that right now," West said.
The vehicle itself came to the department at no cost outside of paying $6,000 for shipping. West said the 2007 model vehicle, valued at $658,000, will be stored in the city maintenance complex behind a fenced-in area and under a shelter.
Maintenance on the vehicle will cost roughly the same as what the department's "deuce and a half," or M-35 cargo truck, cost them over the nine years they had it, which was slightly more than $2,000. West said $700 of that maintenance cost on the deuce and a half came right after Hurricane Matthew pummeled the region and drowned it in historic flooding, causing the police department to handle a high volume of water rescues.
West said the MRAP was ordered between six and eight weeks ago through Law Enforcement Support Services out of the Raleigh division of the Department of Public Safety.
It arrived Tuesday night around 6 p.m., West said.
The Wayne County Sheriff's Office will be able to use the MRAP for its SWAT Team, West said.
"For me, it has three main purposes," West said. "High water rescues, surveillance to move throughout the community and conduct video surveillance, and SWAT or ERT."
West said he expects to use the military vehicle for video surveillance several times a month, both with officers inside and without officers inside.
"It will depend on the area we're working," West said.
West said discussions about getting an MRAP or something similar began after the killing of Ron Lane at Wayne Community College in April 2015, and continued after a prison riot in October 2016 at Neuse Correctional Facility near the old Cherry Hospital.
After Hurricane Matthew hit and devastated the area, requiring police to perform water rescues in perpetuity, it "sealed the deal" on buying the military vehicle, West said.
Capt. Karl Rabun with the Police Department said the automatic tire reinflation system had been removed from the MRAP, as well as the turret, before it was shipped to Goldsboro.
Maintenance and work is still being performed on the MRAP to get it ready for use, but citizens can expect to see it in use within about a month, West said.
---- Staff Writer Rochelle Moore contributed to this report.