RACINE — Racine police could soon have the keys to their first new mobile command vehicle in 32 years.
City Council members voted 14-0 on Tuesday, with no discussion, to give the police department and finance staff permission use to $344,888 in unspent 2015 capital improvement budget dollars to purchase the unit.
Saying their existing unit is out of date and ill-equipped for current field operation needs, Racine police officials approached the Finance and Personnel and Public Safety and Licensing committees last week seeking funds for the vehicle.
Made by LDV, a specialty vehicle supplier in Burlington, the new unit will replace a much smaller command vehicle the department purchased in 1983. That vehicle will not be sold but will be utilized by the department’s crisis negotiation team, Police Chief Art Howell and Lt. Dave Wohlgemuth told committee members.
At more than 35 feet in length, the new mobile command vehicle is about twice as long as the current vehicle and has have three separate areas that can be utilized by officers in multiple settings, police said. The current vehicle has only one room, and was designed with 1980s technology in mind, they added, making it far too cramped and inefficient.
Equipped with an interview room in the back, the new vehicle will allow officers to video-record interviews of suspects or others in the field — something that is now required — without disturbing activity going on in other parts of the vehicle.
The vehicle is designed for special events or incidents — Fourth Fest, a disaster, a manhunt — but it can and will be used for many other things, Wohlgemuth said, such as a mobile community-oriented policing house.
The vehicle had been on the Police Department’s list of capital improvement purchases for years, but kept getting postponed, the officers said.
After finding a way to bring the price for the vehicle down from $500,000 to $344,888, Howell said the department contacted city Finance Director Dave Brown to see if there was money left over in the city’s 2015 capital improvement budget to make the purchase.