Apprenticeship School Building SWAT Vehicles

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Students at an Indiana training program are turning Brinks Inc. security trucks into SWAT vehicles for police departments in northwest Indiana. The Iron Workers Local 395 Apprenticeship School in Lake Station says the effort allows law enforcement agencies to acquire the vehicles for less than $3,000.

April 3, 2014

News Release

Lake Station, Ind. -- The Iron Workers Local 395 Apprenticeship School in Lake Station, IN, has its students working on a very unique project – retrofitting Brinks Security trucks into Law Enforcement SWAT vehicles. Currently three local police departments have already jumped on the heavily armored bandwagon; Lake Station, Munster and Portage.

Collaborating with the Iron Workers Apprenticeship School has brought about immense savings for the police departments, who were able to acquire the vehicles for little more than the cost of the steel and other parts. On the open market, armored vehicles like the Brinks trucks can cost as much as $300,000, but in the end, each department only had to spend about $2,500 on parts and paint.

"Iron Workers 395 is always proud to do things that help our community. This project was a really interesting one that engaged our apprentices and got them excited, and we were happy to work on something that went to support our local law enforcement agencies," said Doug Strayer, Business Manager for Iron Workers 395.

Master Iron Worker and 395 Instructor Richard Hertaus said, "The nature of our business in iron working is safety. Safety is the number one priority that we're teaching our apprentices, and in a way, this whole project with these SWAT vehicles is about safety. We're working to ensure the safety of these officers, who in turn work to protect our entire community."

"We want these officers, and our students, to have confidence when they go to do their jobs, to be able to perform their jobs, and return home," Heratus said. "On this project, our students were practicing many of their usual skills, cutting, welding, measuring, and things like that, but this just happens to be placed in a different format. So, our students saw a lot of cool things that they never would have thought of, and we showed them how to apply these techniques. There was a lot of reinforcement to their skills that they got to apply with this project. It was something very unique that we were able to accomplish."

Troy Williams, Chief of Police with the Portage Police Department, spoke about how he first came to learn about the Brinks trucks and the work that the apprentices were conducting. "The Portage Police Department was serving a warrant in conjunction with the Lake Station Department when I first saw this vehicle, and I asked them, where'd you guys get that?"

Williams said. "Brinks has a program in which you can get an out-of-service truck that they will lease/sell to a department for $10; and the only caveat to that is whenever you're done with it you have to give it back to Brinks. So if we have it for 20 years, that's great, and we'll return it to them when we no longer need it."

"The Iron Workers did all the work, and we just had to fund the materials, so that was awesome. If you were to go out and buy a vehicle like this on the market, it's probably going to cost about $300,000, give or take. We put about $2,500 dollars in materials, the $10 to lease it from Brinks, and then we have an individual who's donating the paint for it, so for under $3,000 we basically have a tank," Williams said. "Given today's world, you see all the active shooter situations. All departments need equipment to get close to an active shooter, and this gives us another tool to do our job."

Detective Mike Smith, Lake Station's SWAT Team leader, said, "For what we do, and to get our team to a location, these vehicles are phenomenal. It's great to get us close to a situation, perhaps a house or building we're going to be making entry into, because it gives our officers a greater sense of security."

He went on to describe a little bit about Lake Station's truck, saying, "The vehicle is fully armored, and the glass is bulletproof. It also has a bulletproof opening on top where we could put a sniper up there where he'd have some cover behind bulletproof glass. The front passenger seat has been reversed, facing the rear of the vehicle, so that passenger can get out of the back of the vehicle easier in full SWAT gear. The platforms on the sides and the back have been expanded, and the wheels have been covered to protect the officers riding on the sides. Additionally, the front bumper has a battering ram that slides out of the side in case we need to take a fence down or something like that."

"The vehicle is very intimidating. The Iron Workers thought of everything. For what we needed, and what we wanted, they really hit it out of the park," Smith said. "The Painters Union in Merrillville donated their labor to paint the vehicle; we just had to pay for the paint. To have a fully armored vehicle for a fraction of the cost – other departments should really be taking a look at this."

Heratus said his students were very enthusiastic about the project, and that the experience was rewarding. "The students couldn't wait to get started on this project; they were always asking when these vehicles would arrive so they could get to working on them. We're helping our communities, and we're proud to be doing it."

The Iron Workers Local 395 main office is located at 6570 Ameriplex Drive Portage, IN 46368. The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers (IABSO&RIW) was founded in 1896 in Pittsburgh, Penn. They now represent more than 125,000 Ironworkers throughout the United States and Canada.

Source: Iron Workers Local 395