Burbank gives South Pas $1 tank

South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne shows an armored vehicle parked behind the South Pasadena Police Department on Thursday, January 26, 2012. The vehicle, acquired from the Burbank Police Department for $1, will be cleaned up and used by newly trained SWAT officers. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

These days a dollar can buy a can of soda, a song on iTunes — or, in the case of South Pasadena, an armored vehicle.

Last week the city took delivery of a vehicle known as a Peacekeeper, paying Burbank $1 for the privilege. Burbank originally received the Peacekeeper as surplus from the U.S. Air Force.

The Peacekeeper is primarily used for rescues and creates a barrier between a potential shooter and a resident or police officer, said Burbank Police Lt. John Dilbert.

The Peacekeeper saw no action during its Burbank years, except during SWAT exercises, but South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne said his agency is boosting its SWAT training and capabilities, and he's pleased to have the vehicle.

“Local law enforcement [agencies are] having to rely more and more on their own resources for tactical operations,” Payne said.

A city staff report stated the South Pasadena Police Department would benefit from having the Peacekeeper in the event of a complex shooting incident or stand-off situation, such as the North Hollywood bank robbery shooting in 1997 or the gunman's rampage at a Seal Beach hair salon last year.

“Active shooter training is also a high priority for police officers that are facing a new type of terror threat as was seen in the Mumbai, India, terror attack,” the staff report stated.

The City Council approved the purchase Jan. 18.

In the past, South Pasadena has relied on the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for SWAT assistance. Payne said he'd prefer that his own 35-officer agency have control.

“If the sheriff's department takes over, they also assume command of operations, which can be problematic because we're still responsible and liable,” Payne said.

The last time the city called on the county SWAT team was in 2005, when a mentally unstable woman barricaded herself with a weapon, Payne said.

Four South Pasadena police officers recently completed SWAT training and four more are expected to go through the training in the coming weeks, Payne said. South Pasadena officers will become part of the San Gabriel Valley Foothills Special Enforcement Team, which includes police officers from Arcadia, Monrovia and San Marino.

“What's happening these days, especially with special responses, is they're becoming a regional asset,” Payne said. “Small departments don't have the ability to do it on their own.”

Burbank decided to sell the tank after it obtained a new BearCat SWAT vehicle in February 2009 through a $275,000 Department of Homeland Security grant, Dilbert said.

Wanting to keep the Peacekeeper in the area, he contacted several departments. South Pasadena officials said they'd take it for the price of a McDouble.

The Peacekeeper is an armor-framed, gasoline-powered vehicle on a heavy-duty Dodge truck chassis and requires no special training to operate, authorities said.

“You want to have some sort of response team pending the arrival of a full [SWAT] team,” Dilbert said. “In an event that South Pasadena needs to get to a citizen, they have the opportunity to do so. It's a very good addition."