YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli has agreed to use cash confiscated from criminals to help pay maintenance, repair and fuel costs for a surplus armored truck, nullifying concerns that taxpayers would have to foot the bill.
Sheriff Michael Saudino has approved the addition of the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, as well as a second one to be used for parts.
The Department of Defense has donated the MRAP MaxxPro Category I vehicles, which each weigh 29,500 pounds and are “almost identical to the Bergen County Police Department’s two vehicles that they purchased using taxpayer funds,” Saudino said.
They are “primarily designed to protect occupants from rifle fire, explosives, and extreme weather,” the sheriff said.
They do not have any weapons systems, he emphasized.
Other counties — as well as regional police departments throughout the U.S. — use the same vehicles for high-risk warrant entries or prisoner transports, homeland security, natural disaster responses and high-water situations.
Saudino drew fire from some political opponents after announcing his intentions to get the vehicles.
In response, he authored an opinion piece for CLIFFVIEW PILOT in which he laid out his reasoning (SEE: Setting the record straight on armored car purchase).
Sheriffs before him have tried to replace their office’s retired armored vehicle but were stopped by the cost. Not any more, Saudino said.
“In light of recent incidents at shopping malls, schools, and weather related disasters across the nation, it is inexcusable to play politics when it comes to public safety or officer safety,” the sheriff said today.
“If we can have the opportunity to properly respond to just one emergency situation with this vehicle and save lives, it will be justified,” he said.
The vehicles are being obtained under DOD’s Law Enforcement Support Office Program, which donates tactical gear, electronics, vehicles and other equipment to local law enforcement.
These include surplus vehicles that no longer serve a purpose in combat and are then converted for civilian purposes.
“Unlike other similar vehicles in this county, this vehicle can save civilian lives as it can operate in high-water rescues in up to seven feet of water,” Saudino said.
“Of course, it will further serve the core functions that our armored vehicle previous served,” he added. “These are not combat vehicles, as some have falsely claimed.
“The style of these trucks is designed for one simple purpose, to protect the occupants of the truck,” he said.
Having a second vehicle for spare parts will help curb maintenance costs that will be covered by the prosecutor’s office, Saudino said.