Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s debuts new tool helping from public safety, natural disasters

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 6:13 PM CST
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POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY, Iowa (WOWT) - A law enforcement agency in Iowa has a new tool.

They hope it can help save lives in a wide range of scenarios.

“We are the only ones in a large area to be able to have this kind of machinery,” said Sgt. Marc Freeman, Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office ERT Commander.

This isn’t a typical skid loader.

This is The Rook. It’s a specialized piece of equipment.

“It’s a dual-purpose machine. We can use it for an emergency situation. If we have a house where somebody is armed or barricaded, we use it for that. The other thing we can use this for is a natural disaster, storm cleanup,” said Capt. Steve Winchell, Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office.

The emergency response team has been training with it for months.

About a week and a half ago, the Rook appeared on the streets for the first time when Omaha Police needed help dring an hours-long standoff involving a man barricaded in a garage with a gun.

“We had explored training with other agencies. We took it over to Omaha and let their emergency response team train on it, see what its capabilities are. For us to get that phone call from Omaha saying hey we’d like some help, was really big. It was huge,” said Sgt. Freeman.

Leaders with Pottawattamie County’s emergency response team say that active situation showed just a portion of what the rook can do.

The $350,000 piece of equipment has several detachable tools that can do anything from moving cars to trees.

The team here says it could be crucial in a natural disaster.

“We’ve been through the flood. We’ve seen what that’s like on multiple occasions. We’ve had severe weather come through our communities whether that be straight-line winds, the Derechos, or tornados. To be able to take this out and help our communities and the leaders get our communities up and running is huge for us,” said Sgt. Freeman.

The emergency response team wants the Rook to go beyond helping out in Pottawattamie County.

“It’s going to be a really, really useful tool not only for us but we’ve contacted everybody around us in the metro. Both the Nebraska side and the Iowa side. We will take this thing wherever it needs to go,” said Capt. Winchell.

The Rook was paid for by a bond issue.

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