The Aberdeen Police Department hopes to spend about $135,000 to refurbish its mobile command vehicle, citing an ongoing need for police to be able to operate remotely during a major emergency or in the event of a possible terrorist incident.
The department bought a recreational vehicle to turn into a mobile command center several years ago and got a $6,000 federal grant for the project, Chief Henry Trabert told the City Council during a work session Monday night.
"We repainted it but it really is not equipped the way it should be," Trabert said, noting police officials have been meeting with Ripken Stadium and local emergency officials to develop incident protocol that includes using an independent command vehicle.
The vehicle would also be used in major incidents, such as police shootings or natural disasters, he said.
With Aberdeen's proximity to I-95 and the main East Coast rail systems, city police should be prepared for cases of terrorism, including a lone gunman, that require officials to move out of the City Hall building, he said.
Besides emergency incidents, the vehicle also gets used for community events like parades, he said.
Retrofitting the vehicle would cost $134,986, according to a quote provided to the city by Incident Command Solutions. Trabert will be asking the city council to approve a budget amendment for the project.
Although "it looks like a lot," Trabert pointed out a patrol car costs $45,000 without needed equipment, including a computer, prisoner cage, radar and camera system.
Mayor Mike Bennett, who is retired from Maryland State Police, said a new vehicle of this size with the necessary equipment installed would easily cost at least $400,000 or $500,000.
He said the State Police vehicle he helped design and implement cost about $1 million.
Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young added: "I see the virtue of doing this, and in my own mind, I have to say in the worst scenario, if we don't have access to this building safely, what else would we do? So, I don't think it's smart for us to not move ahead with this project."
Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck said Aberdeen has changed greatly.
"We are not Mayberry anymore. It's not 1950," she said. "The probability of one of those [events] happening is probably pretty large, especially the geographic location of where we are and if something happened and we didn't do anything, our liability would be [to the extent that] you could probably buy five of these [vehicles]."
"I think this is something very wise for us to do," she said.