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Tarrant County Sheriff's Office plans to spend $345,000 on its first armored vehicle

A giant armored car, olive green, sits on the side of a rural road.
Rebecca Boone
An armored vehicle known as a BearCat blocks the road to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge at an FBI checkpoint outside of Burns, Ore., Friday, Feb. 12, 2016.

The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office received the go-ahead to buy its first armored vehicle on Tuesday, and it carries a $345,000 price tag.

County commissioners approved the purchase of a Lenco BearCat G3, a “standard vehicle in U.S. SWAT” that is also used in the U.S. military, according to the Massachusetts-based armored vehicle manufacturer’s website.

The vehicle can drive off-road and fit 10 to 12 “fully equipped” officers.

The Republicans on the Commissioners Court won a 3-2 vote against the Democrats to approve Lenco's bid.

The sheriff’s office needed an armored vehicle for more than a dozen responses in the past year, according to the department.

For those incidents, they borrowed one from other area law enforcement agencies, like Fort Worth or Burleson, which means Tarrant County deputies had to wait up to an hour and a half for a response, the department said.

The sheriff’s department had already budgeted for the armored vehicle, but Republican commissioner Manny Ramirez said he would have said yes even if the purchase was a brand-new idea.

“If those men and women need a tool that's going to help them go home at night, and it's within our power to budget for it, and if it's going to help keep the public safe, I'm always going to support it,” said Ramirez, who is also the former head of the Fort Worth police union.

Democratic commissioner Alisa Simmons, who represents southeast Tarrant County, said she didn’t see a problem with the department’s previous strategy of borrowing armored vehicles from other local law enforcement agencies.

Her colleague Roy Charles Brooks, representing southwest Tarrant County, said local law enforcement doesn’t need this kind of heavy-duty equipment.

“I don’t believe in the militarization of our public safety officers and departments, and I’m not gonna vote for this,” Brooks said.

Police forces across the country have invested in military-grade equipment, and not without controversy. A 2017 study found that police departments that get more equipment from the military kill more people. Another study found that using military equipment erodes public trust in police.

The Fort Worth Police Department had two BearCat armored vehicles as of 2020, according to theFort Worth Star-Telegram.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.