GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Police Department recently acquired two new incident response vehicles thanks to a federal program. One is a mobile crime scene unit, the other is for the department’s High Risk Unit.
“These two vehicles provide a lot of different capabilities for us,” noted Captain Doug Otto of the GFPD. He said the department’s two new incident command vehicles will provide peace of mind with their capabilities.
“They are air-conditioned inside. They have a generator built in, so they can come in if it’s hot outside if we’re working on an outside scene. As you come inside, you’ll note we have a refrigerator and items in here for storage. This is really good for blood evidence or something that has to be kept at a cool temperature,” Otto said, walking in to the mobile crime scene unit.
It also has a secure evidence locker and a computer system that allows crime scene personnel to access records and input information.
“Most of the time when our detectives are in the field and we have a major crime scene, they’re taking things, loading them into vehicles, having to take it back to the station, go back through the processing and packaging of it,” Otto explained. "We knew that our two vehicles that we had, the ’86 van and I think the other was an ’88 crime scene vehicle, too small, old, unreliable.”
The High Risk Unit vehicle will be used to transport the unit’s members and serve as a mobile command center.
“These are helicopter seats. Basically, they fold down with seat belts, the whole nine yards...As you can see behind you,” Otto said, gesturing to tools hung inside the vehicle, "you have the equipment necessary to go out on the scene whether it’s the shield, tools to make entry into a structure or a vehicle or whatever we might need."
Safe, functional, and ready to serve the city for many years to come.
The police department was able to get everything it was hoping to get in these new vehicles but will keep an eye on developing technology and consider upgrading the vehicles as necessary.
The GFPD provided the following information in a news release:
A 2006 Chevrolet C5500 van, customized to serve as the Department’s Mobile Incident Command (MIC), replaces a small primitive 1986 Chevrolet van. The new MIC can transport up to sixteen personnel and has separate rooms for command/negotiations and equipment storage. It is equipped with computer monitors that connect through the unit’s WiFi, allowing incident command staff to access timely and accurate information.
A matching 2006 Chevrolet C5500 van, customized to serve as the Department’s Mobile Crime Scene Processing (MCSP) unit, replaces a 1988 Chevrolet box truck. The new MCSP van was specially designed and outfitted by evidence specialists and detectives from the department’s General Case Unit. This vehicle serves as a complete evidence processing station.
It allows investigators and evidence personnel to collect, enter, and catalog evidence at the scene, thus significantly reducing the amount of time processing at the police station, and improving overall efficiency. The new MCSP van’s custom interior includes an evidence processing station, computers to log evidence, secure storage, and a separate room for personnel to escape harsh weather or to use as a crime scene command post. Much of the custom construction of the MCSP van was funded by a Justice Assistance Grant.
The completion of these vehicles fills a large gap in capability, reliability, and efficiency for the Department. The vans were acquired through the US Government’s 1033 Program, in which local law enforcement can attain equipment and vehicles no longer in use. To acquire similar fully equipped vehicles through a standard purchasing program would have cost the Department approximately $750,000. Through the 1033 Program and the Justice Assistance Grant, along with the immense generosity of several companies who donated or discounted time and equipment, the Department only paid approximately $15,000, the cost to ship the vans from Florida to Great Falls.
This large year-long project was spearheaded by Detective Scott Fisher. Fisher located the vehicles, applied for funding through the 1033 Program and Justice Assistance Grant, organized the design team, and completed much of the physical labor to customize the vans. Detective Fisher facilitated a similar purchase in 2014 and saved the Department approximately $670,000.