MERCED -- It makes a Hummer look like a Honda.
The Merced County Sheriff's Department unveiled its new 2010 Lenco Bearcat last week, a tactical armored vehicle that will be used by the department's Special Weapons and Tactics officers in emergency situations.
The $300,000 vehicle was purchased with grant funds from the Department of Homeland Security, said Sheriff Mark Pazin. He added that no money from the county's general fund was used.
Pazin said the vehicle is needed because criminals have become more heavily armed and sophisticated.
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He said the vehicle will increase safety for deputies potentially coming under heavy gunfire.
"If there is a SWAT call out, they are going to be well protected," Pazin said.
The Bearcat will take over for the department's Peacekeeper, a military-style armored vehicle the department inherited from Castle Air Force Base.
Although the Peacekeeper will be kept in rotation, deputies say the Bearcat will be the SWAT team's first line of defense.
The Board of Supervisors voted to accept the grant funds for the Bearcat at the end of 2009.
Before it was shipped to Merced County, the Bearcat recently was showcased at the National Sheriff's Association Conference in Anaheim.