By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
“A shield on wheels.”
That’s how Chief Gary Conn describes the new armoured rescue vehicle (ARV) recently gifted to the Chatham-Kent Police.
The seven-tonne black behemoth, a donation from London-based General Dynamics Land Systems, was unveiled Sept. 13 at the John D. Bradley Centre following the police services board meeting.
However, Conn pointed out that the new military-style vehicle will be used for defensive – not offensive – purposes, designed to enhance public safety and keep police officers safe.
“This is not an armed vehicle and has no offensive capabilities,” Conn explained. “It’s purely defensive in nature, and it can, and it will, save lives.”
The ARV is 6.40 metres (21 feet long), just over 2.7 metres (eight feet) in width and 2.63 metres (8.63 feet) high. It’s an all-wheel-drive vehicle with huge speciality tires and can provide cover for up to 10 people, while reaching speeds of 100 km/hr.
Hopefully, said Conn, the ARV won’t need to be used often, as the service normally gets serious calls where it would be required three to four times a year, but he said it could prove “invaluable” in high-risk situations, such as incidents involving weapons or extreme weather events, such as last December’s blizzard.
“It’s the coming together of the private and public sector for a common goal,” he said. “That common goal is to enhance or increase both officer and public safety.”
The collaboration between CKPS and General Land Dynamics to acquire a vehicle for Chatham-Kent began around seven years ago, Conn said with himself and now retired sergeant Paul Pomajba creating a relationship with the company and putting forward the business case.
“I can assure you this is very, very rare,” Conn said of the donation, as General Dynamics has only donated two other similar vehicles to other Ontario police services. The vehicles, which have been used by the United States military in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, range in price from $750,000 to $1 million.
To date it has cost the CKPS $50,000 to refurbish the vehicle, including a full paint job. The new ARV replaces a 32-year-old vehicle used by the service that Conn said has reached its “end of life.” The older vehicle will be kept for training purposes.
According to General Dynamic officials present at unveiling, the London-manufactured bulletproof vehicle is tough enough to withstand heavy fire and even a bomb blowing up beneath it. The ARV donated to Chatham-Kent was previously used by the London manufacturer as a test machine.
Many other police services have similar ARV vehicles, he added, including Sudbury and Barrie, “comparators” similar to Chatham-Kent.
Chatham-Kent mayor Darrin Canniff said the ARV is a “welcome addition” to the police fleet, noting it’s a great example of a private/public partnership.