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May 7, 2019 3:33 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Board Supports BearCat Buy

East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo Michael Wright
May 7, 2019 4:01 PM

The East Hampton Town Board appears resolved to move ahead with the purchase of a BearCat armored vehicle, using funds from an anonymous donor.

East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo made the case for acquiring the vehicle at a meeting on Tuesday.

With frequent visits from presidential candidates—and presidents and vice presidents, current and former—as well as numerous high-profile celebrities and captains of industry, the police chief said, the South Fork is ripe for an assault-type situation.

The three police departments in East Hampton maintain a shared emergency services unit whose 15 officers spend more than 100 hours a year training to respond to such events. Having an armored vehicle to protect those officers in the event of an active shooter or an armed individual barricaded in a building is a key component of their training, he said.

The police chief said the acquisition of the BearCat would be no different from having a boat to serve the town’s emergency dive team—preparation for an occurrence that, while rare, could mean lost lives if the department lacks the proper equipment.

The chief said his hope is that the BearCat would be used for training but otherwise sit in the department’s vehicle yard for its entire useful life—as has been the case with the former Brinks truck that the department now relies on as its armored vehicle.

The BearCat will be far more versatile than that truck, the chief said, because the chiefs have requested a model known as a MedCat, which is outfitted like an ambulance inside to allow the emergency treatment of an injured or wounded person.

“This is not a tank, and it is not a toy,” the chief said. “There are not going to be 50-caliber machine guns on top of this thing, and we are not going to roll it out to patrol the streets of Montauk in the summer.”

Mr. Sarlo, who has been East Hampton Town’s police chief since 2013, said that he and the chiefs of the East Hampton Village and Sag Harbor Village departments had been contacted directly and met in person with the individual offering financial assistance to discuss how a donation could serve their needs. They specifically discussed the BearCat vehicle, and the donor said he supported the purchase.

“We mentioned the MedCat, and he said, ‘Let’s do it—if it helps one person, it’s worth it,’” the chief recalled.

The Town Board had approved the purchase of a BearCat in 2016 when it applied for a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase one. The town was not awarded the grant.

Board members said after Chief Sarlo’s presentation that they saw the acquisition of the vehicle as a better-safe-than-sorry choice that is made easier by the costs being covered by the donor.

“God forbid we ever have the situation where this is needed and we said ‘no’ and don’t have it available,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said.

Some of the board members said they had chosen not to be told who the confidential donor is, so that there would be no concern on the knowledge weighing on their official work in the future, while others said they preferred to know for the sake of consciously avoiding such conflicts.

All lamented that a small town like East Hampton even has to think about preparing for the sort of situations the BearCat is designed to respond to.

“It’s sad that the world has changed,” Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said.

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