PORTSMOUTH — There could be a new, armored vehicle patrolling city streets pending how Portsmouth City Council takes on this piece of legislation in subsequent meetings.
Discussed during the City Managers meeting on Monday, council decided to authorize legislation to purchase a Lenco Medcat vehicle. That legislation, which will go to first reading on Nov. 23, would appropriate $265,000 from the General Fund.
In a letter from Portsmouth Police Chief Debra Brewer and Fire Chief Bill Rasion addressed to Council, that a need exists for such a vehicle to protect both first responders and citizens from instances involving active shooters, hostages, and natural disasters.
“The worst thing we can do as city leaders is wait until a criterial incident happens which costs a first responder or a citizen their life before we take the necessary actions,” reads the letter, adding that both departments will use it regularly and do maintenance checks.
Council asked Lt. Cory Summers and Officer Nick Shepherd of Portsmouth PD to further describe the necessity and details of the vehicle’s capabilities.
This vehicle, designed to withstand impact, also has on-spot medical treatment abilities such as oxygen tanks, compartments for medical supplies and gear storage, and trauma lighting. No new storage facility or additional training to operate the vehicle will be required as well.
The $265,000 price tag seemed to be a concern for council at first, but were more open to the idea after hearing from the policemen and a financial assessment by City Manager Sam Sutherland.
“I know it’s a lot of money, but I really believe it’s necessary,” said Summers, detailing instances where the city’s newly formed SWAT team would have been better suited with this protection.
Formed in September 2019, SWAT has been called in 30 times or about 2.5 times per month. This would allow the vehicle to assist the Ohio State Highway Patrol and other police and fire departments in the county and surrounding areas, Summers and Shepherd feel.
Financially, Sutherland said the city was doing well despite the coronavirus. He considered the needed money could come from the General Fund or the Capital Investment Fund.
1st Ward Councilman Sean Dunne said during the meeting and later in an interview with the Portsmouth Daily Times that the safety of first responders was a priority of the city’s, but the fact that their safety was at-risk was a part of another large issue facing the country.
“It really emphasizes to the city and taxpayers the extra cost we face when we see that police officers in our country face heavily-armed people,” said Dunne in an interview on Thursday. “Whereas you go to other countries and they don’t have this concern.”
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a national non-profit dedicated to fallen law enforcement, there has been over 24,000 line of duty deaths in the U.S. since 1776. Ohio’s 869, three of which come from Portsmouth PD, has the sixth-highest amount of deaths.
Regardless of the need, Dunne said it is an expensive item for the city and would like to see all avenues of funding considered. To help alleviate some of the burden, he feels that the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office and grants could be of great assistance.
“If we’re only using it on average 2.5 times a month, then there’s plenty of other days in the month where it would be available for others to use,” he said. “It just seems that the other first responders throughout the county should receive the same protection that we’re going to give in the city.”
While the officers said grants are hard to come by currently, Dunne would like to see them keep their eyes open for any opportunity. How much the grants could cover is unknown, but the city would plan on matching that amount if received.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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