SWAT officers near the courthouse in Long Beach Thursday, July 11, 2019. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.
SWAT officers in a BearCat near the courthouse in Long Beach Thursday, July 11, 2019. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The City Council Tuesday night approved the purchase of a new armored vehicle for the Long Beach Police Department. The 2022 Lenco BearCat armored tactical vehicle will replace an earlier Lenco vehicle the department has been using for the last two decades.

The cost of the new BearCat is “not to exceed” $349,583, according to a city staff report on the vehicle. The city further estimates that the vehicle will require $6,877 a year in maintenance.

Lenco, based in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has been building armored vehicles for police agencies and military forces around the world since 1981. The vehicles are built on a heavy-duty commercial truck chassis and armored with steel plate and ballistic glass designed to withstand hits from 7.62 AP and .50 caliber BMG bullets.

Specialty versions of the BearCat include models optimized for fire-fighting, explosive ordnance disposal and med-evac.

The LBPD’s new BearCat will enhance the department’s ability to provide “protection, rescues, and utilization of de-escalation tactics that may not be possible without the armored rescue vehicle,” according to the staff report. The LBPD further says it needs the vehicle “in the event of an active shooter or complex, coordinated attack,” according to the city.

Because the new BearCat will be funded through an Urban Areas Security Initiative grant, which is administered by the Department of Homeland Security, there are strict limitations on how the LBPD can deploy it, according to the city.

The BearCat “may only be deployed to incidents that meet strict criteria that include active shooters, hostage situations, armed barricaded suspects, and high-risk search warrants,” according to the city staff report. Equipment funded through the Urban Areas Security Initiative grant is also “prohibited from being used for riot suppression or dispersing crowds,” according to city officials.

City officials also say that, unlike the old BearCat, the new vehicle will have a diesel engine that meets California emissions standards and “significantly reduces greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, and particulate emissions compared to the engine in the old unit.”

The BearCat item appeared on the agenda’s consent calendar portion, meaning there was no public discussion of the matter during the meeting.

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Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.