MRAP joins South Tahoe police fleet |

MRAP joins South Tahoe police fleet

Tom Lotshaw

South Lake Tahoe Police Department acquired a $638,000 armored vehicle for free through a federal program that offers excess military equipment to law enforcement agencies.

There's a new cop car in South Lake Tahoe, and it doesn't look anything like a run-of-the-mill police cruiser.

The vehicle will be used by the police department's Special Weapons and Tactics response team and is known as an MRAP, which stands for mine-resistant, ambush-protected.

It's a type of armored vehicle the U.S. military uses. The military has contracted for thousands of them to protect troops from gunfire and roadside bombs in combat zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.

The vehicles have waist-high, run-flat tires as well as armored windows and body panels and reinforced undercarriages.

"We acquired it for free from the military," said Brian Uhler, South Lake Tahoe's chief of police.

South Lake Tahoe acquired the $638,000 vehicle for free through a 1033 program run by the Defense Logistics Agency. The program makes excess military equipment available to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

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The MRAP came to the city with fewer than 10,000 miles on the odometer.

Dozens of MRAP vehicles have been given to law enforcement agencies around the country through the 1033 program.

South Lake Tahoe Police Department is the second law enforcement agency to acquire one in California, Uhler said. The first went to the police department in Salinas.

After taking delivery of its MRAP this summer, South Lake Tahoe sent the vehicle to South Side Auto Body for a paint job "so it doesn't look like a military vehicle straight out of the National Guard," Uhler said.

"It's designed to rescue people pinned down by gunfire," Uhler said. "It's a platform to get close to a dangerous situation without exposing officers to life-threatening danger."

The vehicle was pulled out of storage at the city airport and decorated with lights and a wreath for police officers to drive in this year's Christmas parade. That marked its first official deployment in South Lake Tahoe.

"We hope we never ever need it," Uhler said.

"But it's a great piece of equipment to have in the Basin. Relying on one to come up from some other place, it would be way too late when we got it."