Lawton Police Department is proceeding with plans to buy a new armored vehicle.
Police Chief James Smith explained the project to the City Council this week, saying plans to replace the purchase of fire apparatus with the $354,100 police vehicle is a credible use of money in the REVRB Fund because it will help ensure the safety of police officers responding to dangerous situations. An armored vehicle already owned by LPD hasn’t been used in years because it is non-functional, Smith said.
The situation stems from vehicles funded through the REVRB program, a system created by city staff to analyze all “wheeled” vehicles in the city inventory and assign them priorities for replacement. The program is funded by the $8.05 “rolling stock” charge on monthly city utility bills.
City staff’s initial proposal had been to buy new fire apparatus as the next REVRB investment. Administrators said an analysis showed the purchase process couldn’t be completed in this fiscal year because of issues with delivery time. When the fiscal year began July 1, 2022, the plan was to buy the fire truck, but since then, its cost has increased twice, while the delivery time on the vehicle could be up to three years.
Former City Manager Michael Cleghorn said in a February report that the best solution was to delay delivery of the fire truck until next fiscal year, and transfer the funds that would have gone to the new truck this fiscal year to the police armored vehicle (which has an estimated delivery time of about a year). The estimated cost of the BearCat proposed for purchase is $354,068. The REVRB list had allocated $527,850 to the fire apparatus project, to include the purchase price and cost of outfitting the new unit.
Smith said the police department has been considering the armored vehicle purchase for at least two years, deferring the purchase last year in favor of replacing aging patrol units.
“We needed to get some 20-year-olds (cars) off the road,” he said.
While the department has had an armored vehicle for years, that vehicle isn’t used.
“It is out of date and very dangerous to be on the road,” Smith said.
He said armored vehicles can be used in a variety of instances to better protect officers, such as barricade situations and incidents where people need to be rescued. The ultimate goal is to protect officers, he said, adding some criminals are using AR-15s and while an assault vehicle will stand up to that fire power, standard police units will not.
“A patrol vehicle is not equipped to withstand that type of arms,” he said.
He said there is a proven need for such a vehicle, explaining the department already has served 68 search warrants this year, some involving those with narcotics and dangerous weapons. And, there already has been more than 100 mass shootings this year across the nation.
“We want to protect our officers,” he said, adding while Lawton hasn’t had a serious incident, there was a “swatting” call alleging a shooting incident at a city secondary school two weeks ago.
Council members were concerned whether the armored vehicle was the best use of the REVRB funds for LPD. Ward 4 Councilman George Gill pointed to ongoing efforts to replace aging police units.
“Are our priorities where they need to be?” he asked.
Council members also asked whether Comanche County Sheriff’s Department might not be of help, by lending LPD its armored vehicle. Smith said that vehicle, purchased in 2024, is military surplus, while the one LPD will purchase will be built to specifications needed by a municipality.
Ward 8 Councilman Randy Warren called the proposal a tool in the law enforcement arsenal, saying an armored vehicle will deter fire from someone shooting at police.
“A sedan won’t,” he said. “They are not bulletproof.”