Gloucester Township police can have access to Camden County's armored vehicle any time they want it, a county spokesman said Monday afternoon.
The spokesman, Dan Keashen, refuted claims made recently by a Gloucester Township police commander, who said the county's vehicle isn't always available when needed.
The township wants to spend $250,000 to buy one of the vehicles exclusively for use by its police department. Use of the county's vehicle is overseen by the Camden County Sheriff's Department.
During a township council meeting Jan. 14, Gloucester Township Police Deputy Chief David Harkins said, in justifying the proposed purchase, "I only know that the Sheriff's Department often is not on call 24/7."
He also said, "the vehicle that the county has, we used to be able to go pick it up and use it, but they changed that. We're not allowed to do that. We have to wait for a sheriff's officer to respond with it."
Finally, Harkins expressed concern that the rescue vehicle could be in use in other towns and not immediately available to Gloucester Township Police in an emergency.
None of those concerns are valid, Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen said.
Responding to the assertion that the sheriff's department doesn't work around the clock, Keashen said, "That's completely untrue. The sheriff's department is a 24/7 operation."
Keashen added that Camden County municipalities—including Gloucester Township—requested the armored rescue vehicle a total of 10 times for tactical responses in 2012.
"The vehicle was delivered all 10 times, and all deliveries took place even before the tactical teams' response to the location," he said.
Keashen also said the requirement that only the sheriff's department can operate the vehicle when it's requested by municipal police isn't written in stone.
"We have an agreement with the municipalities that only a sheriff's officer will operate the vehicle, but there's certainly flexibility in that," he said. "There's a liability piece to that, but I know municipal police departments have operated that vehicle, Gloucester Township being one of them.
"There's never been an issue brought up the sheriff's department in which there was a conflict with getting the vehicle to a location" when it's needed.
The county's armored vehicle is parked at the Lakeland complex in the township's Blackwood section. Camden County paid $289,000 for the fully equipped vehicle in 2009, using Homeland Security funds, according to Keashen. The county received the funding because it agreed to share the vehicle regionally, he said.
Gloucester Township Council voted at its Jan. 14 meeting to solicit bids for its own armored vehicle. The township's vehicle would be paid for with unused capital improvement funds from prior years and proceeds from drug forfeiture cases, officials said.
The purchase is not on the agenda for tonight's regular council meeting. However, the township is holding a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at the municipal complex. Council states on the agenda that the reason for the closed meeting is to discuss "techniques utilized in protecting public safety and property/governmental buildings."
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