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The City Journals

Draper police makes a big purchase

Jun 24, 2019 10:40AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Draper’s newest mobile command center, built by a North Carolina company, will be used at Draper Days and in emergency situations. (Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

The Draper Police Department proudly announces the April arrival of their new “baby,” a 38-foot-long and 30,000-pound mobile command center.  

Proud “parents” Police Chief John Eining and Fire Chief Clint Smith designed the unit to Draper’s specifications and needs. It was built on a commercial chassis (rather than an RV chassis) by Matthews Specialty Vehicles of North Carolina. Matthews specializes in custom buses including mobile medical clinics, bloodmobiles, bookmobiles and other public safety vehicles. “It’s completely custom from the ground up,” Eining said.

The main unit cost $470,000, with another $60,000 put into electronics, for a $530,000 total cost to the city. The funds became available about two years ago. Though Eining has struggled with employee retention in a competitive pay market for police, these funds couldn’t be used for salaries. 

“The money to purchase the command vehicle is one-time money the city acquired either through carryover from budget savings or some other source. One-time money does not come from a recurring revenue source like sales or property tax. Even though the city has one-time money every year, the amounts and funding source can vary; therefore, they cannot be used for salaries or full-time employees,” Eining said. 

The command center will serve as a home away from home, a unit on wheels that can be transported to sites around the city for better, more coordinated emergency response. It’s equipped with a conference room at the back featuring a large table, ample seating and a flat-screen TV to keep watch over incidents. Images on the TV come from a specialized camera with 30 times optical zoom that sits atop a 40-foot pole on the exterior of the vehicle. The camera’s zoom allows for such tasks as finding a lost child or a lost person on a mountain in a fire situation. The camera has recording capability so police could potentially record someone committing a crime. 

Steve Alsop is the city’s IT director. “The camera could probably read a license plate that’s two miles away,” he said. In other words, it offers incredible magnification.  Because of its power and capability, its use is restricted to only a few personnel.

The middle of the unit is the “war room,” with six computers, three on each side, separated by a long table in the center. Fire personnel could work on one side of the unit and police on the other in their coordinated efforts. There are erase-board walls for charting progress and making notes as well as a phone. Sliding doors seal the war room off from the back conference room and the front driver and passenger seat area. 

Toward the front are a small refrigerator, a microwave and a restroom. The entire unit is air-conditioned and is equipped with radios for communicating with officers in the field. Another big screen TV sits on the exterior of the unit. It will be used to brief response teams or personnel when they arrive at an incident. 

The vehicle’s capacity is generally intended for up to 10 people working on an incident, though it could potentially hold up to 20, including the city council, city manager and other personnel, in extreme situations. 

In addition to emergency response situations, the mobile command unit will be used during Draper Days for coordination of fire, police and EMT services as well as a coordination center for finding lost children and/or watching for illegal behaviors. 

This new “baby” replaces its older “sibling,” a much smaller Ford bus, like those used to transport senior citizens to the senior center, which had been retro-fitted on the interior with benches, erase boards and a television.  

“Draper City now oversees all of its own safety and collaborates all departments for extended incidents. It was hard to do those incidents when you didn’t have the right tools. We wanted this unit this way for longevity. This is going to last a long time,” Smith said.