New law enforcement vehicles serve and protect
The recent upgrade in police vehicles has the streets of Columbia and Richmond counties teeming with fresh new car designs.
In 2011, it was released that the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor—the model used previously in both Richmond and Columbia County—would no longer be manufactured. The teams had to begin their search for their new interceptor, with a few options to choose from. The Ford Police Interceptor, Dodge Charger, Chevrolet Caprice and Impala were all in the running. In their decisions, the two counties decided to go in separate directions for the vehicles that would patrol their county streets.
“Our fleet team went out and tested multiple [vehicles] and decided on the Dodge Charger because of its history of good maintenance,” said Pam Tucker, director of the Emergency and Operations Division in Columbia County.
As director of Emergency and Operations Division, fleet services falls under Tucker’s direction.
This history of good maintenance behind the Charger was the driving force for the decision over the Ford, which is packaged specifically as a pursuit vehicle. The Charger had already been assigned to traffic units in Columbia County, which made for an even easier decision of what new patrol vehicles to purchase.
“With only 14 people on staff to maintain these vehicles, the team didn’t want anything too high maintenance,” said Tucker.
The Charger has been, and continues to be used in many North American police agencies across the country, including the NYPD and LAPD.
Richmond County looked at a separate factor while making their decision — idling cost. The Ford Taurus-based Police Interceptor proved to be a cheaper route to go, as vehicles have to idle while at an accident scene or directing traffic. In a metropolitan area, this factor would prove to be an important one to consider.
“Idle cost was the huge difference,” said Capt. Scott Gay, who works for the Special Operations division in Richmond County.
While the Charger outperforms in an interstate environment, it didn’t prove to be a better choice for Richmond County, where there is a lot of stop and go driving. The choice of the Interceptor would lower the cost of gas—an important aspect to consider with today’s rising fuel prices.
“I drove the Charger, Caprice and Impala, and it was my opinion that the new Ford Interceptor, for its price, outperformed the other vehicles for a metropolitan area,” said Gay.
Other aspects of the Taurus proved more worthy to Gay as well.
“They put a lot of technology into the [Interceptor] that they got from NASCAR; such as aerodynamics and the cooling of the brakes. In a pursuit, it is important for brakes to stay cool.”
He also said that while they lost some trunk space, the vehicle appears and feels the same as the Crown Victoria.
While the Interceptor was the No. 1 choice for patrol vehicle in the metro area, the county still chose to use the Charger and Impala for investigators and administrative staff for its cheaper cost and because those jobs didn’t require a vehicle that would be put under heavy use, such as a patrol vehicle would.
Columbia County is also making use of their options.
Along with the new Chargers, the county fleet still has a mix of older Dodge Chargers and Ford Crown Victorias. The makes and models of any unmarked vehicles that are on patrol were asked to remain confidential.
“We don’t want to give out those makes and models for obvious reasons,” said Capt. Steve Morris, Criminal Investigations division in Columbia County.
These patrol cars and unmarked vehicles are not the only thing on the road, however. Motorcycles and bicycles are also in use.
For these two-wheeled patrol officers on the road, the two counties also used separate brands of motorcycles. While Columbia County went with Harley Davidson, Richmond decided to go with the Honda ST1300, a made for police motor vehicle.
“The reason we went with the Honda over Harley Davidson was because of its cooling system,” said Gay. “The Honda uses liquid cooling.”
One reason liquid cooling can be a better choice over air is that water can conduct heat 35 times better than air, allowing heat to move in and out of it much more easily.
High horsepower vehicles are not the only thing patrolling Columbia County, either.
Cannondale bicycles have also been put into use. They cost around $1,000 per model. Despite being less intimidating than a vehicle, bicycles allow easier maneuverability in off-road locations.
When it comes to purchasing these new additions, the process was the same for both counties.
It comes down to a bid process between the local vendors in the area. Once a decision was made for what model to go with, the chosen vehicles were bid on through four to five different local vendors, and the lowest bidder won. Fairway Ford and Bobby Jones Ford were among the vendors purchased from.
Columbia County has started to become more frugal with the amount of new police vehicles added than they have in the past.
“In the past it could be from 60 to 70 [purchased vehicles], but in the last few years, due to the economic downturn, the department has been good about keeping them a little longer and now we average about 30,” Tucker said.
According to the Columbia County Fleet Replacement Program, patrol vehicles are not checked for replacement until they reach either 125,000 miles or 6,000 hours of drive time. From the 2009-2012, the amount of Sheriff Department replaced vehicles in Columbia County dropped from 37 to 19 per year.
“For the last three years we have adjusted to making the cars last on the road longer,” Tucker said.
Once purchased, each new unit is installed with police equipment and extras. These range from the light package — police lights on top of the car — to a radio system, computer mounts and computers.
“We are a digital agency. Each car has to be outfitted with a computer,” said Gay.
With the exception of radar, most of the vehicles are all installed with the same devices.
Traffic patrol vehicles are usually the only unit with a radar system installed, said Morris.
Richmond County decided it would be easier to purchase the vehicles to be ready and stocked upon delivery.
“We found it to be cheaper to have it delivered turn-in-key, already equipped,” said Gay.
Any old unused vehicles needing replacement do not go to waste.
“[Old vehicles] in surplus are sold in auction,” said Morris.
Although it may be hard to recognize the new models that are still fresh to the streets, the flashing lights in your rearview mirror should be an easy giveaway. You Might Also Like: