By Betsy Dolan
SWAT officers in Fort Bend County have a lot more muscle behind them now thanks to a new tactical, armored response and rescue vehicle called the Bearcat. The newly realigned Fort Bend Regional SWAT Team will utilize the vehicle for deployments throughout the county.
The Bearcat, which carries up to 10 people, is extremely versatile and can handle a variety of terrains. It is especially useful in barricaded situations, high-risk warrants, active shooters and dignitary transport.
The Bearcat was put to the test last year in Tyler where a SWAT team approached a kidnapping and murder suspect who was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle. The suspect fired 35 rounds at the Bearcat before an officer brought him down. “It allowed officers to approach the residence safely and protected them under heavy fire from a very high-powered rifle,” said Tyler PD SWAT Commander Rusty Jacks, noting the vehicle saved lives and prevented injury to SWAT officers.
Fort Bend County purchased its Bearcat with an Urban Areas Security Initiative grant provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Homeland Security Grant Program. The UASI grant provides funding to highly populated urban areas to help protect them from terrorism. States are required, per the 9/11 Act, to ensure that at least 25 percent of UASI funds are spent on law enforcement terrorism prevention activities.
The Fort Bend Regional SWAT Team is comprised of an east division, including Missouri City, Sugar Land, and Stafford Police Departments and a west division comprised of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and the Rosenberg Police Department. Creating a regional SWAT team in Fort Bend County is part of a joint effort with law enforcement agencies to increase security throughout the Houston area.