From the outside, it looks like a normal Ford Excursion.
But when you open the back doors of the 2005 vehicle and 27-foot long trailer attached to it, it doesn’t take one long to realize this isn’t your standard SUV.
“It’s definitely not your average SUV,” said Riverside police officer Leo Kotor when talking about the department’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Vehicle (WMDV). “It has everything we need in case of a terrorist attack.”
Since the force first began in 1875, the Riverside Police Department has grown with each passing year. This vehicle is just another proactive step to keep the surrounding communities safe.
“You never know when something is going to happen,” Kotor said. “It may not be in Riverside, but we want to be ready to protect ourselves and our neighbors if anything does happen.”
The vehicle is part of the Homeland Security effort and was paid for by the federal government. While the exact figures are unknown, Kotor estimates that the WMDV cost around $500,000.
“If we didn’t get the help of the federal government, there is no way we could have paid for this,” Kotor said. “We wouldn’t be able to touch half of the stuff that we have on just our budget alone.
“So it’s a big advantage to have the federal government helping us out. We’re now prepared and we can serve if needed.”
While the WMDV does provide Riverside with many valuable resources to handle a terrorist attack, Kotor stressed that it alone would not be enough to respond to an attack.
“Sometimes I don’t know if people realize that if there was an attack in Riverside, we would need the help of other communities,” Kotor said. “While this WMDV is held here, it’s not just for Riverside. I just hope we never have to use it.”
According to Kotor, there are 70 different communities throughout the state that Riverside works with in case of such an attack.
“If there was ever an attack, it would take all the resources throughout the state to help solve the problem,” Kotor said. “We go for training twice a year in Alabama. At that time, we’re exposed to live agents to learn how to deal with them.”
With recent cuts in the federal budget, it is unclear what effect those will have on this program.
“It’s really up in the air right now,” Kotor said. “That program funded everything, so we’ll just have to wait and see. We’re prepared right now, and that’s all that matters.”