ERV makes emergency responses easier for Burlington police

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Burlington Police are using new equipment to aid in their response to emergencies.

The department's Emergency Response Vehicle or ERV is custom-designed and one of the only vehicles of its kind used on the local police level in Vermont. It's used almost daily for a variety of calls.

Tools on board the ERV helped in finding a wanted man a few weekends ago. Burlington Police responded to a drug-related shooting in the Old North End Nov. 10. In the process of executing a search warrant at the location, detectives found Martin Magnuson, 29. Magnuson was wanted on an unrelated arrest warrant. He barricaded himself in the building's attic. Officers used thermal imaging and a fiber optic scope on board the ERV to locate him and negotiate his surrender.

Our Dom Amato got an inside look at the vehicle and found out how this technology complies with privacy laws.

"We were able to put this up there and see the person who wasn't responding to us, where exactly they were in the attic, so we could come up with a better plan to resolve the situation," Burlington Police Sgt. Justin Couture said.

Couture says that's how the tech on Burlington Police's ERV aided in finding the fugitive.

"This gives us a ton of less lethal and other options to slow things down," he said.

The ERV is modeled after similar vehicles used by the NYPD.

"It could be anything from a burglary in progress where we need some additional resources," Couture said. "It could be a mental health crisis; it could be a multitude of things."

Shields, rope, power tools, beanbag shotguns, high-powered lights and a Y-bar are just a few tools on board to help contain and de-escalate a situation. Small remote control robots with cameras are also available to use to keep officers out of harm's way.

"It's a way of handling emergencies in a way that doesn't put a police officer in a physical confrontation with a possibly violent person," Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said.

Infrared scopes are also used if police have a warrant. BPD does not have high-powered scopes that can see through walls, which could be unconstitutional without a warrant.

"The Constitution has a special protection for and respect for privacy in one's home," said Lia Ernst, an attorney with the ACLU of Vermont.

Ernst says it's on police departments to ensure officers are trained and know where their authority ends.

"Law enforcement officers have an obligation to learn the law as it evolves, as new decisions come down, to understand how that might change how they can and cannot practice," Ernst said.

Chief del Pozo says they only deploy their equipment in accordance with the law.

"We don't use it for routine surveillance or intelligence gathering," he said.

Couture says any tools they have that can help gather more information give them a better chance for a positive outcome. He says the department is constantly adding new resources to help aid in various emergencies.