NAUGATUCK — There’s a new command vehicle in town.
The Naugatuck, Middlebury, Wolcott and Watertown police departments recently received their new DUI/support command vehicle.
The command vehicle, valued at around $350,000, was paid for with a federal and state grant and by the four towns contributing about $22,000 each. It was manufactured by Farber Specialty Vehicles, based in Columbus, Ohio.
The vehicle’s main function is to test the blood alcohol levels of motorists during DUI checkpoints, a traffic stop or following an accident, Naugatuck police spokesman Lt. Bryan Cammarata said
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that when you do a DWI you need to get two tests done in a two-hour period,” Cammarata said.
While it is not impossible to conduct the tests without a command vehicle, Cammarata said, doing so can be a struggle for officers.
“Take an event of a serious crash. Besides everything else we’ve got going on we have to worry about getting those tests done. So this enables us, when we have the vehicle right on scene, to do that,” Cammarata said.
The vehicle comes with a device to test blood alcohol levels, dispatch equipment, two television screens that can be hooked up to the internet, two separate phone lines and space to store accident reconstruction equipment. There is a bathroom to perform urine tests on suspected intoxicated motorists and a conference area in the back.
In addition, the vehicle has a high-powered light tower on the roof.
“With the accidents, we were very dependent on each town’s fire departments to come give us lighting and generated power. Theoretically, we can bring this truck out and our equipment is in the back. We have the ability at that point to be able to use the light tower, use the power, use all the stuff we have, and be able to do it all with this vehicle right here,” Cammarata said.
The vehicle also affords the departments a backup plan.
“If our power goes down at the police department we have generators. But there could be a time where everything goes down and you have to have a plan for that,” Cammarata said.
Cammarata said the borough’s plan was to go to either Middlebury or Watertown. However, the department can now pull the vehicle up behind the station and dispatchers can work out of it.
“They could hook the phones in and they would be able to fully dispatch out of this,” Cammarata said.
Cammarata said the vehicle is also good for community outreach and allows the departments to have a more visible presence in their respective communities. The vehicle was parked near the Naugatuck Green during the borough’s annual Veterans Day ceremony. The day before it was in Wolcott, he said.
“We want to be able to do those community policing things where people come out and see it,” Cammarata said.
Cammarata said the departments could also host events, such as his planned “coffee with a cop,” in the vehicle.
The vehicle has already made an impact on one young borough resident.
“There was a kid who came up to me before. He was lost and knew to come up to this [vehicle]. It is a great thing to have because it is just out there,” Cammarata said.
Prior to the four municipalities receiving their own command vehicle they borrowed a vehicles from Waterbury when they needed it.
Naugatuck Deputy Chief Joshua Bernegger said Waterbury had been generous but “you borrow your neighbor’s lawn mower so many times, at some point you have to buy your own.”
The vehicle, when not in use, is stored at the former General DataComm building in Naugatuck for the time being.
The building offers a freight bay that keeps the vehicle out of the elements and allows it to remain plugged in and charged, Cammarata said.
Cammarata said the most common question he’s heard about the vehicle is what would happen when two municipalities need it at the same time.
The answer comes down to good communication, he said.
“We just map it out and just work it out between each other,” Cammarata said.
The Republican-American contributed to this article.