Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 28, 2013

Mobile Marksmen: Converted ambulance turns triage into tactical advantage

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — It's kind of hard to participate in any logical discussion about police S.W.A.T. teams without remembering a certain, catchy, instrumental song from the 1970s …

“Duh-nuh-nuh! Duh-nuh-nuh! Duh-nuh-nuh! Duh-nuh-nuh! Duh-NUH-NUH!”

 … Remember? The opening theme music for the American television series, S.W.A.T.? Which forever drenched generations of police fans in the mystique of the Special Weapons And Tactics unit?  

This tune – also referenced in the 2003 movie of the same name –  is very well-known by certain members of  the Jacksonville Police Department's  “Special Weapons And Tactics unit.” It is known to be hummed or sung as  members climb into their new team vehicle – a converted ambulance recently donated to them by the city's fire department.

This converted ambulance can transport the six SWAT officers to any crime scene in need of their type of tactical expertise. The vehicle was recently stripped and repainted to include the Jacksonville PD's SWAT logo.

Jacksonville Police Det. Sgt. Daniel Franklin, SWAT team commander, said this is the first time all six Jacksonville SWAT team members and their gear have been able to comfortably travel to crime scenes at the same time.

Their gear, which adds 60 additional pounds per team member, includes vests, ammunition and weapons.

Previously, SWAT team members were forced to load up in a Ford F-150 police truck, which proved problematic. Between the additional weight of their tactical gear and the visual spectacle created by being suited up and stuffed in the back of a pickup truck, the ambulance – donated over a month ago – proved to be a godsend, Franklin said.

Also, Sgt. Franklin said, the donation of the vehicle by the Jacksonville Fire Department saved the police department quite a bit of money.

In addition to allowing officers to carry SWAT equipment around more easily, the size of the new vehicle also allows them to store their gear in that van rather than carry it around individually with them, as they all had to do before.

“It's big and is exactly what we were looking for,” Sgt. Franklin said.

The team has yet to take the new vehicle to a a major crime scene, Franklin said. So far they have used it to serve some warrants.

Jacksonville Fire Marshal Dennis Tate said Fire Chief Paul White authorized the donation of the ambulance to the police department. White was not immediately available Wednesday.

“But really, it's good to see it being put to such good use,” Tate said.  

 Jacksonville Police Chief Reece Daniel said he also is very happy with the new vehicle.

“When we first started the SWAT team I told Sgt. Franklin that it had to be done right,” Daniel said. “Through his leadership, it has not only been done right but he has gone above and beyond with the procurement and refurbishing of the SWAT vehicle. This vehicle allows us to move the entire team into a problem area very rapidly and will be an effective tool in our drug enforcement and in high risk warrants.”

Or in other words:

“Duh-nuh-nuh! Duh-nuh-nuh! Duh-nuh-nuh! Duh-nuh-nuh! Duh-nuh-nuh! ...”