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The Keene Police Department now has a LENCO BearCat Special Missions armored vehicle like this one. (COURTESY)

Keene police take delivery of controversial armored vehicle

KEENE - After a controversial vote to accept Homeland Security funds last spring for the purchase of the town's SWAT vehicle, the Keene police department placed its BearCat into service Tuesday.

The department took delivery of its Special Mission Rescue Vehicle from Lenco Industries on Nov. 16, however the lone piece of equipment that did not come standard on it, a piece radio, had to be installed. According to a press release, after the radio's installation, the vehicle was delivered.

The Keene City Council voted to accept a $285,933 Homeland Security grant in December - without a public hearing - to buy the armored vehicle. Some claimed it was a waste of public tax dollars while others said it was not needed in a small town such as Keene.

After a public outcry, the Council held a vote at its March 1 meeting in City Hall. There, councilors voted 9-4 in favor of accepting the grant, defeating councilor Terry Clark's motion to rescind the grant.

"It's an armored vehicle, not an armed vehicle and there's a big difference," Keene Police Capt. Brian Costa said in describing the BearCat last spring.

The vehicle's manufacturer, Lenco, provided initial training, which will be ongoing.

The BearCat was purchased through Department of Homeland Security and the New Hampshire Department of Safety.

"We hope that if a situation arises I'd be glad to have it," Costa said Tuesday. "The hope is always that they don't arise. That why we have police departments for when they do."

Costa said the vehicle will be introduced to the public in the near future.

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