‘Do you really need a tank?’ Tarrant County buys armored vehicle for sheriff’s department

Ted S. Warren/AP

Tarrant County commissioners voted Tuesday to purchase a $345,000 armored vehicle for the sheriff’s department, but whether the vehicle was needed was up to interpretation among county officials and residents at Tuesday’s meeting.

The county will purchase a Lenco BearCart G3, a SWAT vehicle that can be used off-road and set 10 to 12 people. Money was allocated in the past budget cycle.

Democrats on the Commissioners Court questioned whether the vehicle is needed. Alisa Simmons asked if the county had purchased this vehicle before and whether there were employees who could keep up with the maintenance. She also asked how many calls the sheriff’s department had received that would warrant the vehicle’s use. A department representative said the department had borrowed a similar vehicle in the past.

Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks said he wouldn’t vote for the purchase and didn’t support to militarization of the sheriff’s department.

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email from the Star-Telegram regarding the number of armored vehicles the sheriff’s department owns, how often they’re used and for what situations.

The county commissioners had just finished a discussion that ended in denying three county employee’s out-of-state travel requests because of hotel and conference registration costs. Jackee Cox, a resident who came to speak at the meeting Tuesday, applauded the commissioners’ attention to the spending of public dollars. Cox couldn’t help but wonder, though, why the vehicle was necessary and asked why the commissioners couldn’t spend the money on mental health resources for the jail.

“Do you really need a tank?” Cox asked.

Commissioner Manny Ramirez, the former Fort Worth police union president, said he would always support public safety and officers. County judge Tim O’Hare also supported the vehicle’s purchase.

The purchase passed 3-2 with Simmons and Brooks voting in opposition.