In the summer of 2011, the Greenwood Police Department purchased a military grade Hummer from Fort Chaffee via government acquisition for $285. The 1992 Hummer had been stripped down and needed quite a bit of fixing up.
Chief Will Dawson of the Greenwood Police Department planned to have the vehicle customized and put in service at each of the Greenwood schools. "It’s taken two years and a lot of work, but thanks to generous contributions from various businesses, this project is nearly complete and hasn’t cost the City of Greenwood a dime more than the initial $285," Dawson explained. "Our hope is to use this as a tool to help our Resource Officers connect with the kids."
SMILES Public Safety Store in Fort Smith recently equipped the Hummer with emergency lights and sirens, adding to the work already completed with help from other businesses, including Eastside Wrecker, Arkansas Customs, Grainger Industrial Supply and Walmart.
Sgt. Mark Mergen, the School Resource Officer assigned to the Hummer has already noticed a huge boost to public interaction, especially with the kids. "The kids love it," Mergen said. "They ask every day, "When is the Hummer going to be finished?"
Mergen often takes the vehicle out to Greenwood High School events and the Hummer was at several of the final football games of the season. On December 20, he even escorted the Greenwood cheer team to their state competition. Dawson plans for the Hummer to rotate time between each of Greenwood’s schools as well as marking a presence at school related events.
Although there are still some improvements and modifications planned, the Hummer already sports some impressive features. In addition to the custom Greenwood Bulldog paint job, there’s an iPad hooked up inside. Two panels on either side open up to reveal flatscreen TVs and there is a third, larger flatscreen in the rear hooked up to an XBox 360 and a Playstation 3 along with games for the kids to play. NCAA 13 was the game of choice at Bulldog football games.
Mergen hopes to get the iPad hooked up to the TVs, allowing "Stranger Danger" and Drug Awareness classes to be taught to students directly from the Hummer.
"There is one down side to driving a Hummer," Merger said. "It doesn’t get great gas mileage, but I only drive it from home to school."
The vehicle still needs a few more lights and bumpers as well as some minor interior work, including some carpet for noise dampening, but it has come a long way from the shell it was in 2011.
"This vehicle is a testament to what can happen when a community comes together," Chief Dawson said. "This was built by the community for the community and it has already helped make the officers more accessible to the school kids."