The Brownwood Police Department’s recent acquisition — an armored vehicle that will be used by the SWAT team operated jointly by the police department and sheriff’s office — is an “insurance policy” that will hopefully never have to be used, Police Chief Terry Nichols said.

Nichols and Sheriff Vance Hill spoke to the media Thursday about the armored vehicle and about a fund-raising effort, through the sale of T-shirts, to raise money to outfit the big vehicle and give it some tender loving care.

 Background

The vehicle started its life as a Brinks armored vehicle, then was used by the Mansfield Police Department. 

Nichols said we was speaking at a police chief’s conference last spring when a Mansfield deputy chief heard Nichols talk about his department’s need for an armored vehicle. 

When the Mansfield Police Department obtained a new armored vehicle from the Military, the Mansfield department offered to donate its existing truck to Brownwood. 

“The City of Mansfield gave us this vehicle back in January,” Nichols said. “They got a new armored vehicle and they reached out to us knowing that we were in need of one in our area. We went up and looked at it, kicked the tires and said ‘absolutely, we’ll take it.’

“We had to go up there and drive it back. Mechanics from our city garage went up there and double checked everything and drove it back for us. They’ve done some maintenance work on it — wheel bearings, some stuff it needed, small stuff.”

The vehicle is in excellent mechanical condition, with a good engine, and new transmission, tires and batteries, Nichols said. City of Brownwood mechanics have done some maintenance work including installing new wheel bearings.

 Fund-raising effort

“It needs some tender loving care,” Nichols said. “It needs to be dressed up, painted, a wrap put on it, radio, lights and things like that.”

The hope is to raise $8,000 to $10,000 through the sale of black T-shirts through Willie’s T’s. There are four versions of the shirts — one with long sleeves and three with short sleeves, and cost $15 to $20, depending on the version.

Rowonna McNeely, who has experience as a graphic designer and previously worked for Willie’s T’s, designed the shirts. Graphics on the front of the shirts depict a silhouette of an armored vehicle with the words “Full Armor” and a reference to a Bible verse. Graphics on the back of the shirts depict American flags and the words “Blessed Are The Peacemakers.”

The shirts can be ordered online through the Facebook pages of the Brownwood Police Department and Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

Cash donations are also welcomed.

“We’re reaching out to the community, to ask if they would like to support us,” Hill said. “Even (Thursday) morning, when the chief was on the radio talking about this, we had a local businessman donate $1,000 to us for the project.”

 Vehicle was donated mid-budget year

“We got this mid-year,” Nichols said. “We didn’t know we were going to get the phone call in December that said ‘we’re about to give you an armored vehicle.’ It’s going to take a little bit of money to get it going.

“There’s no budget line-item for it. To get it where we need it to be, instead of waiting for the next budget cycle to start budgeting for stuff, we’re saying ‘let’s get the community to buy in.’ This is a community tool.”    

Hill said the vehicle could be used now if needed. “But as you can see, she needs a little love and attention, so that’s why we’re doing this T-shirt fund-raiser, to make it look a little more presentable and to modernize the equipment that we need for it,” Hill said.

 The reason for an armored vehicle

Hill said the vehicle can be used for “just about any type of situation” including hostage situations, barricaded suspects, the serving of high-risk warrants and even high water rescues.

Nichols added, “this is something we’ll use where we could evacuate wounded civilians, wounded officers, people who may be in harm’s way — pull up with the vehicle, put it between a threat and them, load it up and get them out of there.”

But it will be used “hopefully, never,” Nichols said. “But it’s an insurance policy. This is the kind of asset — when you need it, you needed it yesterday.”

Previously, the nearest armored vehicle, if ever needed, was in Abilene, Nichols said.