South Pasadena buys armored vehicle from Burbank for $1

These days a dollar can buy a can of soda, a song on iTunes — or, in South Pasadena's case, an armored vehicle.

Last week the city took delivery of a vehicle known as a Peacekeeper, paying Burbank $1 for the privilege. Burbank originally received the Peacekeeper as surplus from the U.S. Air Force.

The vehicle is primarily used for rescues and creates a barrier between a potential shooter and a resident or police officer, Burbank Police Lt. John Dilibert said.

The Peacekeeper saw no action during its Burbank years except during SWAT exercises, but South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne said that his department is boosting its SWAT training and capabilities and that he's pleased to have the vehicle.

"Local law enforcement [agencies are] having to rely more and more on their own resources for tactical operations," Payne said.

A city report said the South Pasadena Police Department would benefit from having the vehicle in the event of a complex shooting or standoff situation like the gun battle at a North Hollywood bank in 1997 or the shooting rampage at a Seal Beach hair salon last year.

"Active shooter training is also a high priority for police officers that are facing a new type of terror threat as was seen in the Mumbai, India, terror attack," the report said.

The City Council approved the purchase Jan. 18.

In the past, South Pasadena has relied on the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for SWAT assistance. Payne said he'd prefer that his own 35-officer agency have control.

"If the Sheriff's Department takes over, they also assume command of operations, which can be problematic because we're still responsible and liable," Payne said.

The last time the city called on the sheriff's SWAT team was in 2005, he said.

Four South Pasadena police officers recently completed SWAT training, and four others are expected to go through the training in the coming weeks, Payne said. South Pasadena officers are to become part of the San Gabriel Valley Foothills Special Enforcement Team, which includes police officers from Arcadia, Monrovia and San Marino.

"What's happening these days, especially with special responses, is they're becoming a regional asset," Payne said. "Small departments don't have the ability to do it on their own."

Burbank decided to sell the armored vehicle after it obtained a new BearCat SWAT vehicle in February 2009 through a $275,000 Homeland Security Department grant, Dilibert said.

Wanting to keep the Peacekeeper in the area, he contacted several departments. South Pasadena officials said they'd take it for the price of a McDouble cheeseburger.

adolfo.flores@latimes.com

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