The City of Chula Vista does not want to be “outgunned,” according to councilmember Steve Castaneda. Following that idea, the entire council voted for a no-bid purchase of a Lenco BearCat armored tactical vehicle at the November 24 council meeting.
Background for the purchase was provided in council agenda minutes: “The police department received $407,974 as part of Operation Stonegarden to conduct regional law enforcement operations to intercept terrorists and their weapons from coming across the United States border.” (Operation Stonegarden is the Department of Homeland Security’s program to “enhance state, local and tribal law enforcement operations and assets along the border.”)
Captain Gary Ficacci of the Chula Vista Police Department told the council the BearCat was going to replace the old S.W.A.T. armored vehicle from the ’80s. However, different than the old armored vehicle, the BearCat is intended for regional use and it will be available for problems in National City, Imperial Beach, Coronado, and South San Diego.
Chula Vista mayor Cheryl Cox asked if there would be a shared expense if, for example, the vehicle were needed for an incident in National City; “No,” Ficacci answered, “Chula Vista will assume the cost.”
Ficacci noted in a follow-up email interview: “Any local, state, or federal agency in our area may request the use of this regional asset for any legitimate law enforcement purpose.” Ficacci wrote that he expects four to six officers to be trained to operate the vehicle. Among the justifications for the BearCat articulated by staff were: “delivery of emergency medical services/rescuers in active shooter situations; performance of group evacuations of up to 20 citizens at a time; and deployment of up to 15 fully equipped officers in high-risk situations.”
At the council meeting, community activist Daniel Green asked the council, “When was the last time there was a need for a vehicle of this type in Chula Vista?”
Councilmembers Castaneda and John McCann responded that border violence and border-violence spillover necessitated the purchase. McCann also recalled that the S.W.A.T. team was needed for a shooting at Congregational Tower, an assisted-living building, in 2001.
Photo: from the Lenco website swattrucks.com