VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office is adding another armored vehicle called a BearKat, Sheriff Mike Chitwood said it is used for more than just hostile situations.
“They’re used during wildfires, floods, hurricanes,” said Sheriff Mike Chitwood.
The sheriff’s office shared body camera video with News 6 showing deputies using the BearKat to protect themselves from an armed suspect. The Volusia County Council approved the sheriff’s request on Tuesday, to purchase the almost $340,000 vehicle, making it the department’s fourth armored car.
“My job is public safety and protecting my organization,” said Sheriff Chitwood.
The sheriff said he chose the BareKat over 10 patrol cars in case the federal government does a repeat of 2015 and take two of theirs away depending on who wins this year’s election.
“If we own that vehicle, they can’t take it away. So, at the bare minimum, if this happens, I’ll have two vehicles which I could live comfortably with,” he said.
Rell Black, Founder, and Director of Community Healing Project in Daytona Beach said the sheriff’s budget should not focus on expensive military equipment, rather spend the funds on programs to help underserved communities. Black believes this latest purchase proves the defund the police movement.
“It’s a slap in the face against every social justice movement right now. It’s a slap in the face against every organization that’s trying to build a bridge,” said Rell Black. “If the county said you know what, let’s take some of that sheriff’s budget, let’s do three percent of that and give it to these organizations, we would lessen the loads so the police officers and the county sheriffs, they don’t have to report to mental health issues. They don’t have to report to social issues in the community. You can leave that stuff to our organizations,” he said.
The county council also approved for more body cameras, new handguns, and ammunition for training. Sheriff Chitwood said he’s $20 million under budget from over the past four years. The county said that money is returned to the General Fund and the Municipal Service District Fund for the next fiscal year.