LSO buys new armored vehicle with forfeited assets

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 9:06 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office put in an order for a new armored vehicle to replace the military-grade one it currently has.

Armored vehicles are not cheap, but the sheriff said they will be paying for it with forfeited assets, money taken from suspects involved in crimes.

The armored vehicle, a Lenco Bearcat, that LSO ordered costs about $350,000, which is just a fraction of what the department has brought in to the forfeited assets fund.

The Lenco Bearcat will replace an emergency response vehicle that LSO says isn’t a good enough fit for the department.

“It’s a military vehicle that’s way over-engineered for civilian use... it’s expensive to fix and very heavy and difficult to drive,” Sheriff Terry Wagner said.

Wagner said the ERV is used around 20 times a year to serve as a protective zone for law enforcement at high risk scenes.

LSO has also used it during flooding emergencies, but Wagner said the new one will better serve these purposes.

“It’s smaller, has the same interior capacity, and is going to be easier to drive,” Wagner said.

The money comes from a pot of about $2 million in forfeited assets, which is money or property deputies take during investigations.

“So on the interstate when large cash seizures are made.. If we can tie it to criminal enterprises so used to further or proceed criminal enterprise we can seize it, it goes to the federal government and we get a portion of it,” Wagner said.

According to documents, LSO seized $3.8 million worth of cash and 21 vehicles in 2020 from 102 people. All of those seizures were part of narcotics investigations, nearly all on the interstate.

The data showed all of the vehicles were returned, but there are cases where not all of the money was kept.

“If the owners say that’s my life savings we return it,” Wagner said.

According to data, demographics for who the sheriff’s office has seized property from 56% are White, 32% are Black, 9% are Hispanic, 7% are Asian and less than 1% are Native American.

LSO has spent this money on several big investments like Narcan, technology for the electronic evidence unit, training for officers, the marine unit and drones and other technology. All of that falls into the guidelines put out by the Justice Department.

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