ORANGE PARK, Fla. – The Clay County Sheriff's Office unveiled its new mobile command unit Wednesday at the Orange Park Mall. The state-of-the-art equipment will help deputies respond to large emergency situations more quickly and efficiently.
"Clay County and the surrounding communities are a safer place today because of this new equipment," Sheriff Rick Beseler said.
The mobile command unit will complement the Sheriff's Office's BearCat armored personnel carrier and the Emergency Communications Truck. Together, the units give first responders immediate access to on-the-go electricity, tactical equipment, meeting space, SWAT functions and more.
Some unique features the mobile command unit offers are surveillance cameras positioned outside of the unit and the capability to access other surveillance video and view it on monitors inside the command center.
The interior of the vehicle is about 320 square feet, and all of the equipment inside is expected to last about 20 years.
Beseler said the equipment is much-needed. He said there have been several incidents in which the Sheriff's Office's response was hampered because of inadequate equipment.
"Frustration, that was exactly how I felt in 2011 in Middleburg when nothing we had would work and the assets were hours away from getting here from other areas and during that time, the suspect committed suicide," Beseler said. "Luckily, our deputies didn't have to engage in a gunfight, but we didn't have an armored personnel carrier that would have stopped the type of round the suspect had. He would have been able to shoot through our vehicles and hit our deputies."
Beseler was referencing an incident on May 13, 2011 involving the murder of teenager Cameron Conley and shooting of Michael Barber by Enrique Prim, who later killed himself.
"And even during the Somer Thompson event in 2009, we had the (Jacksonville Sheriff's Office) and (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) send their command post, but it was several days before they got here," Beseler said.
It took five years and more than a half-million dollars to get the new equipment, but it didn't cost taxpayers a dime.
"They were paid for and financed completely by criminals," Beseler said. "By us taking the assets from them -- their ill-gotten gain -- and putting it to work to make the community safe."
Those five-year totals were $269,483 from the Department of Justice, $42,189 from the Department of Treasury and $281,874 from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund. The $550,000 for the new command post came from those funding sources.
With this equipment comes more confidence and assurance that Clay County deputies will be able to respond quickly to any situation and keep the community safer.
"We hope we never have to use it, but the reality is we know that in the world we live in, especially in Northeast Florida, there are going to be incidences that are going to require this equipment," Beseler said.
The Clay County Sheriff's Office also announced it will be replacing it's patrol boat next year with seized funds.