Phoenix, AZ – As we know, police agencies must constantly compete with other administrative departments for a finite amount of funding resources. The situation becomes more complicated when the cost of specialized equipment— especially large tactical apparatus— means expenditures of several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In the fifth largest city in the U.S., with a population of more than 1.55 million people in 516 square miles, Phoenix’s police department was fortunate to acquire homeland security funding to bolster its tactical capabilities. Although Phoenix has seen a decline in its overall crime rate, the city’s close proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border means that crime extends beyond normal stabbings, shootings, robberies and burglaries. The influx of illegal-immigrant smuggling rings into the valley has added a dangerous component. Illegal-immigrant kidnappings, drop houses and cross-border violence among smugglers has kept the department’s special assignments unit (SAU) busy.
Enter the BEAR
The BEAR, originally developed in 1999 by Lenco Armored Vehicles in Pittsfield, Mass., has been continually upgraded and improved. According to Lenco’s president, Len Light, there are nearly 500 BEAR tactical vehicles (and its little brother the BEARCAT) currently in service in more than 80 major cities throughout the United States. The BEAR is also being used by the U.S. State Department for convoy protection of embassy personnel.