Concord police unveil BearCat

Last modified: 7/16/2014 12:53:40 AM
At approximately 1 p.m. yesterday, a garage door at 35 Green St. rattled open and a 6.7-liter twin turbo diesel engine rumbled to life. A black, 20,000-pound armored vehicle slowly chugged out into the blistering light of day.

Introducing the BearCat.

Nearly a year after the city of Concord agreed to purchase the $258,000 vehicle on behalf of the Central New Hampshire Special Operations Unit, it has arrived – albeit several months behind schedule. The manufacturer, Lenco of Pittsfield, Mass., delayed its arrival earlier this year.

Officers drove the vehicle up from Massachusetts last Tuesday, said acting police Chief Brad Osgood, during a tour yesterday of its exterior.

Equipped with run-flat tires, bulletproof glass and a half-inch steel outer layer, the BearCat is designed to protect against military-grade gunfire and close-range explosions, officials said. The 10-passenger G3 model is nearly 9 feet tall, 21 feet long and 8 feet wide, and sits atop a Ford F-550 chassis.

The vehicle is armed with gas and radiation detectors, a rotating gun turret, rifle ports and a detachable battering ram. Mike Pearl, a Concord police sergeant and the commander of the special operations unit, said it operates on a six-speed automatic transmission, gets about 12 miles per gallon and can reach a top speed of about 70 miles per hour.

The BearCat became a source of controversy last year after it was revealed that the Free State Project, Occupy New Hampshire and Sovereign Citizens had been listed on the grant application as potential challenges to law enforcement. The city later amended the application.

Debate also focused on whether the vehicle is needed in a relatively low-crime area.

The 17 cities and towns that comprise the regional unit will jointly own and maintain the vehicle, and will share it in emergency situations, police and Concord officials said.

“It’s an asset, it’s a tool, it’s a rescue vehicle,” Osgood said. “It’s meant for specific and limited use.”

So far it hasn’t seen any action. The vehicle has been inspected and insured, but it still needs to be registered, Pearl said. The regional unit has about 50 members, including about 10 Concord officers. Osgood said those members will be trained within the next two months on how to drive and operate the BearCat.

Osgood and Pearl said they are now finalizing policies on who can use the BearCat and when it will be brought on a call. The vehicle will only be deployed after several people in the unit sign off and Osgood is notified, Pearl said.

The BearCat replaces a 30-year-old U.S. Air Force surplus Peacekeeper armored vehicle that officials have said is no longer reliable. The unit has yet to decide what to do with that vehicle, Pearl said.

The BearCat is expected to last between 20 and 25 years. It’s under warranty for the first three years, Pearl said.

Osgood declined to show the inside of the vehicle, but said he may be open to that in the future. The vehicle will be tentatively housed at the police department.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)


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