After a 3-year process working to replace the 2005 model, law enforcement in La Crosse County now have a brand new Lenco BearCat G3 armored vehicle.
The previous BearCat was in use for 12 years and responded to hundreds of incidents during that time. The sheriff's department wants to be prepared should that frequent use continue.
"I wouldn't say it's necessarily on the rise but it doesn't seem to be diminishing at all," said Chief Deputy Jeff Wolf.
"[The BearCat is] very important for officer safety and keeping the public safe," said Emergency Response Team Leader Sgt. Mike Valencia. "If we have to move people in critical incidents, it's a nice safe way to do it versus the means that we used to have in the past."
Improvements on the new BearCat means making the job easier for law enforcement with more room, better communication systems and new technology.
"In this vehicle especially we can fit more people inside of it, it's easier to maneuver and use, so it's very critical when we have situations that require an armored vehicle," Sgt. Valencia said.
The new purchase cost $315,000, much of that covered by a $225,000 grant from homeland security and the rest by selling the old vehicle for use in Barron County. Despite the price, the sheriff's department says if the improved vehicle saves even one life, it's well worth it.
"We're always trying to prepare for what the next need might be, but it serves many purposes and we're glad that we were fortunate enough to get it," said Wolf.
The new BearCat will function as a regional vehicle as well as for La Crosse County. The previous had been called into use as far north as Superior when necessary.