Slidell police get new set of ‘GI Joe’ wheels

Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith has a new set of wheels — a 19,000-pound bulletproof vehicle for his department’s SWAT team that appeared in the movie “GI Joe.’’

But the best part of the Tiger Light Armored Vehicle isn’t its star turn or its horsepower but the fact that Smith didn’t have to persuade the Slidell City Council to buy it. Textron Marine & Land Systems, which is located in Slidell, gave the $225,000 vehicle to the city, a donation that was announced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Smith said he had been hoping to get one of the vehicles and was negotiating a price with Thomas Walmsley, Textron senior vice president and general manager. Smith thought he had come up with a deal that would have cost the city $10,000 a year — a bargain, the chief said.

But then Walmsley surprised him. “‘I got you a price,’ he says. ‘How about free?’ ’’

Walmsley said the Tiger has been purchased by other cities for their SWAT teams, and Textron has sold some in Mexico. It’s used for border control and homeland security applications, he said.

In Slidell, the vehicle will be used in SWAT team training and competitions, Smith said, noting that it will be good public relations.

But clearly there are law enforcement uses, too. The chief pointed out that the Tiger can pull right up to a scene where guns are being fired or hostages are being held.

The Tiger vehicle wasn’t on display Tuesday. Smith said he wants to get Slidell’s SWAT team logo on it and get officers trained to drive it.

“In two weeks it will be ready to roll,’’ he said.

He isn’t planning to use the Tiger for high-water rescue. Although the vehicle could work in such a situation, Smith said he wouldn’t want such an expensive piece of equipment to get damaged.

The Police Department has an armored personnel carrier, a military vehicle from the Vietnam era that was reconditioned two years ago, that is getting a lift gate and will be designated for flood rescue.

As for Textron’s gift, Smith was clearly overwhelmed.

“Christmas came in July,’’ he said.