When I was a kid, I desperately wanted an air hockey table. Our friends down the street had one I could use anytime, but that wasn’t the point. I wanted my own air hockey table. I was consumed by jealousy and a sense that the world was brutally unfair. I was 11.
So, yes, on the level of a pre-adolescent child, I sympathize with Police Chief Frank Fowler’s distaste for borrowing toys, in this case an armored SWAT vehicle that costs roughly a quarter-million dollars. Let’s face it: It gets old having to go next door and ask, “Uh, Dude, mind if I kill a few terrorists with your 9-ton Lenco Bear- Cat with mountable roof turret?” But part of me also sympathizes with the victims of the only real terrorism we tend to get in these parts: the terrorism of wasteful, overlapping government. Fact is, the county has a BearCat and city cops use it as needed. Between both agencies, the BearCat gets deployed about 20 times a year. I suspect that on 18 of those occasions, a Toyota Prius would suffice.
In Fowler’s defense, he is seeking federal money to finance roughly half the cost of his new BearCat, and as everyone knows, federal money isn’t real money because it falls from the sky. So that’s cool. But I wonder: Might there be an even more cost-effective tactical armored option here?
As luck would have it, I own a Honda Element, an out-of-production SUV whose boxy profile bears a striking resemblance to the BearCat. Would it be possible to retrofit my Honda in a way that would duplicate the thrill of operating a genuine armored tactical assault vehicle but at a fraction of the cost?
The retrofitting was a snap. To introduce critical ramming capability, I inserted two wooden snow indicator stakes into the grill, pointy end out. I also purchased a dazzling array of weaponry in the toy section at Target for about 50 bucks.
I then designed three classic Public Threat scenarios, using my kids—Miranda and Lily—and Miranda’s friend Julia as “bad guys.”
Here are the test results:
Prince George Held Hostage
It could happen any time here. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Syracuse only to have their infant son—the future King of England—snatched by a heavily armed terrorist who hunkers down in an abandoned factory.
For this drill, I erected a backyard barrier of fence sections, empty trash barrels and cardboard boxes. Miranda was assigned the role of the hostage-taker, and the American Girl doll Felicity was assigned the role of Prince George. As the modified Honda rolled forebodingly into view, Perpetrator responded by launching a fierce water balloon assault. The Honda stood firm. When attempts at negotiation failed, the Honda rammed through the barricade with a satisfying crunch, prompting Perpetrator to fling “George” at the encroaching SWAT vehicle and flee into challenging terrain. The royal infant was rescued and deemed “more or less OK.” A duel-wheeled Suspect Pursuit Module (bicycle) was deployed from the cargo bay to effect apprehension of suspect. Outcome: Totally psyched!
Zombies are in the news a lot these days, and with good reason. They’re everywhere, including, perhaps, on your city’s Common Council. In this drill, police arrive at City Hall in an armored assault vehicle to lobby for more cool stuff, like flame throwers and maybe a submarine. Moments later, their worst fears are realized: The council members are, in fact, zombies.
We staged the zombie attack on the grounds of Jamesville Elementary School. The zombies attacked with unrelenting ferocity, in some cases literally draping themselves on the modified Honda. Chemical response (Febreze air freshener) was ineffective. Tactical canine (Larry) was released from vehicle, causing the zombies to retreat just far enough so the human crew could counter-attack with a Chinese-made Double Shot foam dart blaster and an Air Storm cross bow with suction cup arrows. A hood-mounted paint ball mortar would have brought this nightmare to a quicker resolution, but overall law enforcement response to a potentially deadly ambush outstripped expectations. Outcome: Majorly awesome!
“No More Potatoes”
It’s early evening at the New York State Fair’s Great Potato Booth, and the hordes are restless. They want their $1 spuds— now. Then word goes out: There are no more potatoes left. Crowd response? You guessed it: a full-scale riot.
This time the spunky Honda Element raced to the scene and deployed plastic decoy potatoes about 100 feet from the booth. Vehicle’s Public Address capability proved critical. “Over here!” the mob was informed via tactical megaphone (plastic water bottle with the bottom cut off). “There are more potatoes over here!” On cue, the mob rushed for the decoy potatoes, enabling the Honda to be repositioned as a barrier between the angry public and terrified booth workers. But then what? Unlike European models, the U.S. BearCat lacks water canon for crowd dispersal. We solved that problem by introducing a 5-Stream Blast Nerf Super Soaker into the passenger compartment. Smart move. The Super Soaker proved essential in dispersing the rioters and restoring order. Outcome: Who’s your Daddy, potato thugs?
Our testing shows that this remarkable vehicle has everything Chief Fowler and the Syracuse Police Department needs to replicate the BearCat experience in a way that is fun for ages 6 and up. And get this: The department can have my Honda Element for the Kelley Blue Book price of $11,000.
I’ll even throw in an air hockey table.