Imagine being pulled over by an 8-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide armored vehicle going 65 mph with flashing lights and sirens.

A police tank, more or less. In all black.

The Nebraska State Patrol now has three of these behemoths -- light armored vehicles, or LAVs -- at its disposal, courtesy of the Nebraska Army National Guard.

The LAVs can travel at highway speed, but weigh about 25,000 pounds. They're also amphibious, meaning they'll float through rivers and floods.

"They're a bit different than a standard patrol car," said Patrol Sgt. Craig Loveless.

They won't do traffic duty. Instead, troopers will use them during natural disasters and tactical situations.

The patrol had access to the LAVs before through the National Guard, but the Guard owned them and guardsmen drove them.

Patrol troopers used one in 2007 when a man near Valparaiso claimed he was fired at by a sniper in camouflage. The report ended up being a hoax.

Loveless said armored vehicles could have come in handy numerous other times, especially when there are flood conditions.

The LAVs, Guard surplus purchased through the Law Enforcement Support Office 1033 program, cost a total of $7,000. Most of that came from donations from law-enforcement-related organizations, Loveless said.

The vehicles, minus many of the military features they used to have, will be stationed in Lincoln, Grand Island and Sidney.

Each LAV requires a minimum two drivers and can hold as many as eight people.

A dozen troopers are being trained to drive them. The patrol eventually hopes to train twice that many.

"They're fun," said Trooper Art Frerichs, one of those selected to learn first.

And the ride, according to Loveless?

"Very smooth. Very smooth."

Reach Zach Pluhacek at 473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com.

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