BURBANK : Armored Car to Aid SWAT Operations

A new SWAT-like, police response team in Burbank stands ready for crisis, complete with a donated armored car and 20 police officers, including patrolmen and detectives.

"The Special Response Team was created to contain critical incidents in the city--barricaded suspects, hostage situations and that sort of thing," said Burbank Police Capt. Thomas Hoefel. "We typically rely on the Los Angeles County Sheriff SWAT team to handle those kinds of incidents but the time between the incident occurring and the sheriff arriving can be an hour."

That's too long, Hoefel said. And, he said, county SWAT teams do not respond to some emergencies, like a suicidal person barricaded in a home who has not committed a crime.

The team started training in March and has been in service for two months.

Team members include four hostage negotiators, including one who speaks Spanish. The armored car will carry equipment and work as a shield.

"If someone is down in the line of fire, we could use the vehicle to get in between and rescue them," Hoefel said.

The armored car is the 52nd vehicle donated by Armored Transport Inc. of Los Angeles to a police agency. The company gives vehicles that are at the end of their service to law enforcement agencies with the stipulation that the agencies destroy the cars or give them back when they are no longer useful.

But Burbank, Hoefel said, will be using this car for a good long while.

"If you never need it, it's not important," Hoefel said. "But if you need it just once it's invaluable."

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