PORTLAND — The Portland Police Department has acquired a state of the art armored rescue vehicle, capable of repelling fire from high caliber assault weapons.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said the Bearcat armored truck will replace a 1981 military surplus armored personnel carrier – called the Peacekeeper.

In addition to improving the safety of officers and civilians caught in a dangerous situation, the Bearcat offers a thermal imaging system capable of detecting chemical, biological, and radioactive material as well as explosives.

Sauschuck said the Peacekeeper has armor plating that does not provide adequate protection against weapons and ammunition available to the public.

“The Peacekeeper was a great piece of gear, but the biggest difference will be its ballistic protection. The Bearcat’s level of protection is much higher. It’s an incredible piece of equipment and is really the industry standard,” Sauschuck said.

Nicole Clegg, the city of Portland’s spokeswoman, said the police department purchased the Bearcat from Lenco Armored Vehicles in Pittsfield, Mass.

Clegg said the truck was purchased with a $270,000 Port Security Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Sauschuck said the armored vehicle is not only being used by police departments, but by the military as well. Only the Maine State Police have an armored vehicle similar to the one Portland will start using.

According to its website, Lenco Armored Vehicles said that since 1981 the company has produced 5,000 vehicles in over 40 countries around the world.

The company says it also produces armored military vehicles for International police forces, the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

“Our tactical, armored response and rescue vehicles have driven into the Kill Zone and have defeated high caliber assault weapons, mortar frag, grenades and IED attack,” Lenco’s website states.

Sauschuck is just grateful that Portland Police now have a vehicle that can be used as a shield to protect officers in hostage situations, standoffs, or when dealing with an armed shooter.

It can also be used to evacuate citizens – as was the case last year when police used the Peacekeeper during a 13-hour-long standoff on Washburn Avenue.

The Peacekeeper, which will remain in use, was used during the recent situation on Cedar Street where a man allegedly shot a passerby with a BB gun.The vehicle was used to move residents to safety.

“When responding to high risk situations it is absolutely critical and potentially life saving that we have the best and safest equipment available for both our officers and members of the public. Thanks to FEMA, the Portland Police Department has a vehicle that can do just that,” Sauschuck said.