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Published on Thursday, April 26, 2018

Halton police roll out new primary Mobile Command Unit

New vehicle part of $850,000 Mobile Command Unit Replacement Project

Halton police roll out new primary Mobile Command Unit
David Lea/Metroland photo
Halton police Mobile Command Unit #1
By David Lea, Oakville Beaver

More room to work, greater technology and an information display monitor for the public are just a few of the features of the new Halton police primary mobile command unit.

The 31-foot police vehicle, dubbed mobile command unit (MCU) #1, was unveiled Thursday, April 26, during a meeting of the Halton Regional Police Services board.

MCU#1, which is now operational, is part of an $850,000 two-vehicle project initiated to replace the police service’s existing RV-style MCU.

The secondary MCU, a 26-foot vehicle created by this project, has been in service since February 2017.

“We see this project as a way of proving that it is not just words when we say that we have a reciprocal responsibility to the service to make sure we provide you with everything possible to make sure you go home to your family and loved ones."

Oakville mayor and board chair Rob Burton

Insp. Derek Davis talked about the role MCU#1 would be playing in the community.

“We looked at all the prior usage of our original MCU. The general perception is that they are for the tactical type calls. What we actually found out is that it was used more at investigative events, followed by search events, followed by special events,” said Davis.

“So we built in all the capability and more that we need for those tactical- real emergency incidents, but we have also built in some support systems for searches and investigative pieces.”

Davis noted the result is a vehicle that police can take to the scene of a bank robbery and co-ordinate the investigation from, or take to the place were a missing person was last seen and launch a search.

The vehicle can also serve as a base for the police presence at a large-scale event like the Burlington Sound of Music Festival.

It can also house negotiators during the police response to an incident where an individual has barricaded themselves in their home and is threatening harm.

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Davis noted moving forward with the services’ RV-style MCU wasn’t really an option.

He said that vehicle was built in 2002 and while it was considered cutting edge at that time, the technological needs of the police service have grown beyond what this older vehicle can hold.

Davis also pointed out that as this vehicle ages its repair time increases, which in turn means longer periods where the vehicle is not available for an emergency.

He said the option of buying two smaller MCUs over one large one was preferable as one will be available if the other is busy at another incident or if one is unavailable due to maintenance.

“As we grow we just have to have some of that capacity,” said Davis.

Jason Dale of the Halton Police Planning and Research Bureau said MCU #1 is essentially an office on wheels and that anything officers can do in a police station can be done in the vehicle.

Once MCU #1 stops- panelling can be extended on either side to create additional room and four pillars touch down to give officers inside the vehicle a level surface to work with.

Inside, a video wall features eight screens, some of which display news programs, while others display rotating missing and wanted persons photos and information.

The screens can also display video from the high-definition camera in place at the top of the vehicle’s 35-foot mast.

Dale displayed this mobile camera's amazing zoom capabilities at one point zeroing in on the writing of a poster on the front of the Halton police headquarters a least 60 yards away.

A central table in MCU #1 features a touch screen map, which allows officers to see in real time where nearby police vehicles are deployed.

“They can actually draw on the map and mark where they want the officers to stage or close roads,” said Dale.

The vehicle has a satellite phone so if the cell network went down MCU #1 could still communicate with police headquarters and MCU #2.

The vehicle also has a room equipped with a camera, which can be used to interview witnesses following a crime.

One unique feature is a video screen on the side of the vehicle, which can share messages and information with the public.

“We could put up pictures of missing children at an event or Crime Stoppers or police contact information,” said Dale.

Davis noted that if the MCU #1 was deployed to a crime scene the screen could feature information to area residents about why the police are there and what they could do to help.

Other less exciting, but important features include a Prox card reader system to access the MCU.

Dale noted that given the number of people coming and going from the MCU the vehicle’s keys going missing or being locked inside had been a problem.

A toilet equipped with an incinerator was another important change.

Dale said the previous MCU was equipped with a standard vehicle toilet, however, this meant the water in the toilet would freeze if the vehicle wasn’t stored inside during the winter.

“This actually caused us a lot of problems,” said Dale.

Halton police were able to secure a $60,000 grant from the province’s Civil Remedies Program for the MCU’s video systems and controls.

The information concerning MCU #1’s arrival was well received by the police board.

“We see this project as a way of proving that it is not just words when we say that we have a reciprocal responsibility to the service to make sure we provide you with everything possible to make sure you go home to your family and loved ones,” said Oakville mayor and board chair Rob Burton.

“When we saw the jerry-rigged things in the RV and the rescue van your board said, ‘OK, that has to be fixed.’”

The MCU #1 is expected to have a 10-year operational life.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

Categories: News




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