A man drives hundreds of miles and parks his tractor in a pond. Soon he starts shouting in demonstration and threatens with explosives; an unusual occurrence law enforcement typically wouldn't expect. It sounds like something from Hollywood but in reality, occurred on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
The episode warranted a fast and comprehensive solution. The event jammed traffic, and forced first responders to send video to the forward operating area with an out-of-date reconditioned vehicle. This created inefficient communications for law enforcement at and away from the scene.
A custom vehicle's purpose can be found by the situations it deploys for and the specifications it was manufactured to. The adaptability of a custom vehicle helps keep its usefulness maximized.
Many times, a custom vehicle is built from a restored or renovated vehicle. This restoration can be pricey and may only offer service for a few years until repair costs overtake the expense of purchasing a new vehicle.
In certain circumstances, like a possibly armed tractor driver parked in a pond, the renovated and restored vehicle will not be sufficient.
The situation may require specific tools, since communications may be hindered by out-of-date equipment or the terrain too rough to traverse for the renovated and or restored vehicle.
Listening to the customer
What can a law enforcement agency do if a converted or renovated vehicle can't fulfill its requirements?
The answer: build one. A custom vehicle begins from a tough chassis built for law enforcement; the vehicle's interior can be customized to achieve many roles.
Supervisory Special Agent, Michael Klopp of the FBI's Washington Field Office, in response to the changing world of terrorist threat preparation, began searching for a more extensive solution to the situations his agency handles.
"A lot of other vehicles we viewed typically held a lifespan of about six to nine years," says Klopp. "If the FBI is going to pay $1 million for a vehicle we need to spend it on something that's going to last."
From the front-end standpoint, a department will pay more but save in the long-run, he explains.
A custom vehicle offers top-of-the-line features to warrant the hefty purchase. Klopp, along with others from his technical operations squad, worked with two Wisconsin-based custom vehicle manufacturers: LDV Inc. of Burlington, and Pierce Manufacturing Inc. of Appleton.
"I could tell that it was a well thought-out, well designed product, head-and-shoulders above anything I had seen before," remembers Klopp.
Custom vehicles can be constructed for a variety of situations: mobile command and/or communications; SWAT and tactical; bomb/EOD trucks; dive, rescue and other emergency response; mobile laboratories; medical response/triage; decontamination; office/training; or a multi-purpose, equipment transport vehicle.
The process begins by listening to the customer and understanding their needs and the capability requirements of the custom vehicle, says Larry Grassl, senior manager at Pierce.
Once the components are agreed upon, a complete set of detailed specifications is generated; the customer can then use or modify them if required.
"LDV scrutinizes every aspect of what goes into our vehicles," says Marty Organ, the company's director of marketing. "After all, a mobile command center is only as good as its weakest link."
Knowing the high mileage law enforcement puts on its vehicles each year, everything — from the chassis to the technology to the floor plan — is customized to enhance the performance and ruggedness of a custom vehicle.
"Built from the ground up," notes Grassl, "all our vehicles are custom designed and engineered specifically for each application."
As each situation is different, the response needs to be just as unique. The response to 9/11 definitely differed than of a tractor-in-pond demonstration. The variable life of a law enforcement vehicle requires it to adapt to each situation's geographical and technological needs. To answer this call, vehicles become customized at inception.