Thanks to a donation from the Truro Township Fire Department, the Reynoldsburg Police Department now has three vehicles in its SWAT team fleet.
The recently donated medic truck is the second one in the past three years the fire department has donated to the team, said Sgt. Jeff Gregory, SWAT supervisor.
"It's nice to find ways to get what we need, to get the job done without always asking the city via the taxpayers to foot the bill," Gregory said.
The SWAT team's fleet now includes the two medic trucks donated by the fire department plus an armored car that was donated by AT Systems Armored Car Co. in 2005.
Gregory said the recently donated medic truck is a 2001 Navistar International. The previously donated truck a 1998 Navistar International.
Truro Township Fire Chief Jerry Foltz said both trucks had more than 100,000 miles on them. He said the fire department could no longer use them because of their age and unreliability for everyday medical emergency runs, but the trucks are still good enough to function as SWAT vehicles.
"Once they have so many hours on them, they're deemed as not being quite as reliable for carrying sick and injured people to the hospital, and we can't afford to have something that is not up to par," Foltz said. "Reynoldsburg police had their SWAT van break down a few years ago and we just said, 'how about we give you this surplus medic?' So we did, then they had a need for another one, so we gave them the most recent one.
"We also gave one this year to Reynoldsburg schools," Foltz added. "I said taxpayers bought this stuff, so if we could keep them in the city who paid for it, then that's what we need to do."
Gregory said the SWAT team has been serving Reynoldsburg for 20 years and is approaching 300 callout missions for high-risk search and arrest warrants and hostage and/or barricade situations.
The SWAT team consists of 13 full-time Reynoldsburg police officers who receive special tactical training and equipment to deal with highly volatile situations in which SWAT is needed, he said.
The police SWAT team was recently joined by a nine-member team from Truro Township called the Tactical Emergency Medical Services team (TEMS) that rotates two or three members to go on each SWAT mission for medical support, Gregory said.
Police Chief Dave Suciu said the SWAT team would not be able to have anything approaching the fleet it has now if the vehicles weren't donated.
"The city can't afford to go out and buy equipment like that, so if it wasn't for Truro Township donating and assisting us, we just can't afford doing stuff like that on our own," Suciu said.
"The way budgets are these days, there's just no way we could swing something like that. The trucks make our SWAT team more efficient and safer and having these guys from Truro training with them, it just makes a lot of sense," he said.
The 1998 truck is currently being used to carry team members and equipment on high-risk narcotics searches and other critical incidents needing a tactical team response, Suciu said.
He said the 2001 truck can also carry SWAT officers and equipment but is also outfitted to function as an on-scene mobile command center vehicle for emergency critical incidents.
Gregory said the armored car, a 1999 Ford, serves primarily as a rescue vehicle if officers or citizens were ever pinned down and unable to escape an active shooter.
He said AT Systems began donating its out-of-service armored cars to police departments around the country after a bank robbery incident in 1997 in North Hollywood where police commandeered armored cars to rescue wounded officers and citizens under fire.
"After that incident, AT systems realized the police really have a need for armored cars, so they began putting people on a wait list and when an armored car would become available, they would offer it to the police departments," Gregory said.
He said it would have cost Reynoldsburg approximately $350,000 to purchase all three vehicles, but since they were donated, the department only has to pay for general maintenance.
"In these tough economic times, we are fortunate to just get funding to replenish police cruisers, let alone ask for specialty vehicles like these," he said.
Usually, the only way the department can get vehicles is through competitive grants or generous donations, he said.
When the SWAT team received each of the medic trucks, they were still painted fire engine red. Gregory said Dodd's Bodyworks Inc. in Reynoldsburg donated its services to repaint the armored car and one of the medics black.
"We did end up paying them for work on the last medic," he said. "I mean, we couldn't keep going back to the well without trying to give them some kind of money."
He said the work cost between $2,000 and $3,500.
"We are very lucky to have such a good relationship with Truro Township and with opportunities like what AT Systems offered and businesses that want to pitch in to help like Dodd's Body Shop did," he said.