By John Ramos

NAPA (KPIX) — The police department in Napa just got approval from the city council to buy a new armored vehicle to protect officers in tactical situations, but getting rid of their old one is no “small” problem.

In fact, the only thing small about Napa PD’s current armored vehicle was its price.  The giant bullet-proof truck cost the department zero dollars.

The vehicles is called an MRAP, short for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected. They are commonly used in Iraq and Afghanistan because they’re heavy enough to survive roadside bombs.

Napa got their MRAP about five years ago when the U.S. military was offering surplus equipment to law enforcement.

“When it arrived, it proved to be much larger than was practical,” said Napa Police Capt. Patrick Manzer. “Napa has a lot of small, narrow streets. We have a lot of smaller, older neighborhoods. The vehicle, quite honestly, doesn’t maneuver very well in those environments.”

So now, Napa police will be getting a new armored vehicle, popular with police agencies around the country, called a Bearcat G3. It’s designed to get police negotiators closer to the location of a possible active shooter. And it will probably blend in better in a warm, fuzzy place like Napa than the gigantic MRAP ever did.

“You know, it’s not a tank. They don’t have turrets on ’em, you don’t have that kind of a setup,” Manzer said. “But sometimes the overall size of the vehicle can be very intimidating to the public.”

The terms of the free offer was that the MRAP could only be given to another law enforcement agency. At first, Napa had a hard time finding anyone interested. But then the local newspaper ran an article about it and the phone started ringing.

“At this point, we haven’t identified a specific person that’s going to take it from us,” Manzer said. “But we are talking with agencies that have expressed interest.”

The captain told KPIX he actually thinks he has a taker for the MRAP, but won’t reveal the name because it is not a done deal.  The new Bearcat is a special order and they believe it will arrive in about a year.

The City Council unanimously approved the vehicle at last week’s meeting, but this one won’t be free. The Bearcat will cost roughly $290,000.

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