County special ops team gets military ‘muscle’

MILITARY MUSCLE (West inside cockpit)

By Traci Chapman

As Canadian County’s population has grown and the threat to officers increased, officials say they needed to find a way to protect those officers.

Their solution came thanks to the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Support Office, which made it possible for the county to acquire an armored vehicle for “less than pennies on the dollar,” Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West said.

LESO works with the federal Defense Logistics Agency. Together, that partnership makes it possible for local law enforcement to procure at little or no cost military grade items that are no longer used by soldiers, West said. In Canadian County, the program has brought rifles and other similar items to local deputies, he said.

As the county has seen a surge in population – and with it, the potential for “high risk” situations facing officers and deputies, it was necessary to form a Special Operations Team that would not only handle sensitive or highly dangerous matters, but would also have the ability to offer aid to other counties when needed. Thus was created a Special Operations Team comprised of Canadian County sheriff’s deputies and officers from Mustang, Yukon and El Reno police departments, West said.

“No one in the county has a SWAT team, like other larger municipalities,” West said Monday. “This is our version of a SWAT team.”

With the team’s mission – handling dangerous and high-risk situations – in mind, West began looking for something to help transport members. An armored personnel carrier would be ideal, he said. Oklahoma Highway Patrol had the perfect vehicle, which could cost anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000.

That, the undersheriff said, was the problem.

“We didn’t have funds like that, so we knew we’d have to be creative with a solution,” West said.

(Photo/Glen Miller)

That’s where LESO came in. The agency came into possession of several mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles – MRAPs – and Canadian County’s special operations team could get in on the deal, West said.

“These were vehicles used in combat and built to withstand IEDs,” West said. “They were retrofitted with new engines and chassis, and the best part was we could get them for free – just a $2,500 administrative paperwork fee.”

West traveled down to Sealey, Texas, to pick up the vehicle, a Caimen built and retrofitted by BAE Systems. With all of the military hardware taken off, the vehicle would be the perfect protection for team members and the price tag was definitely right, the undersheriff said. It holds a driver and five passengers, he said. The “retail” price tag for the vehicle would be $733,000, he said.

“We’re into it for about $10,000 total, between the fee and painting it, things like that,” West said.

It’s a small price to pay to keep team members safe, the undersheriff said.

“This is a game changer, it’s a way for us to serve the public and keep our guys safe,” West said. “It’s a great deal for the county.”