After more than three decades supplying police departments and taxi fleets with the roomy and rugged Crown Victoria, Ford has discontinued manufacturing the car, leaving departments looking for a replacement.
After Thursday night's Village Board meeting, board members and Bayside Police Chief Bruce Resnick kicked the tires of a few new police cars from other North Shore departments to compare the different models. Shorewood police brought a new Ford Taurus and Glendale police brought their Ford Explorer, but Resnick is bringing a new candidate into the mix.
“I think the only two choices are either the Ford SUV or the two-wheel drive (Chevy) Tahoe," Resnick said. “The two-wheel drive Tahoe is less expensive than the Ford (SUV) is. It’s a mile-per gallon difference city, the Tahoe is one mile per gallon less and it’s the same highway.”
Bayside already has a four-wheel drive Chevy Tahoe, purchased in 2005, and a four-wheel drive pick-up truck, purchased in 2009, but the department needs to cycle out three more squad cars in 2013. Since many other local departments have purchased a test model of one kind or another, the board took the opportunity to see what those departments have learned about each one.
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"A squad car isn't generally driven like a normal car," Pederson said. "It's a totally different type of driving. We had a schedule to purchase one this year and we actually delayed that knowing that the new ones were coming out to see what the advantages and disadvantages were going to be since this is such a fundamental change."
The biggest issue all departments noted was the space for the driver. Officers spend an average eight-hour-day in their squad car, making it a long day if they're squeezed into a tight space.
Need a shoe horn?
When trying out the Taurus, a couple officers near or above 6 feet tall had a tough time getting inside, some even joking they may need a shoe-horn to wedge officers in. The other major problem was the car's side panel between the front and back door. Once inside with the seat far enough back for a taller officer's legs to fit, they would need to shimmy forward to get far enough in front of that side panel to get out — which one officer said could lead to potential back injuries when an officer gets and in an out of their vehicle sometimes 10 times a shift.
The next model they reviewed was Glendale's Ford Explorer. This model is bigger than the Taurus and offers all-wheel drive, but when compared with the Tahoe — the biggest model of them all — Resnick pointed out the miles per gallon are nearly identitical.
"The newer SUVs have Active Fuel Management," he said. "The system switches from eight to four cylinders when engine is not under load. This increases fuel mileage. This feature is not available in the traditional squads."
Resnick handed out an informational sheet from Chevrolet that highlighted many comparable specs between the three models. Here's a few of the key features he pointed out in comparing the models.Tahoe PPV
Ford TaurusPrice* $34,350 $37,340 $32,780 $31,525 Drivetrain 2WD 4WD AWD AWD Engine 5.3L V8 5.3L V8 3.7L V6 3.5L V6 Fuel Economy 15 city/21 hwy 15 city/21hwy 16 city/21 hwy 17 city/24 hwy
Every North Shore police agency, the Sheriff's Department and beyond, have SUVs because they provide higher visibility, have more room for more equipment than a traditional squad car and have the ability to move through snow and mud, Resnick said.
"While village streets are well maintained, often officers respond to homes during the winter with driveways that have not been plowed," he said. "The four-wheel drive vehicles give us the ability to quickly access homes and businesses under all conditions."
Village Manager Andy Pederson said because Bayside officers are also all EMT certified, they have a lot more gear to carry. That gear includes:
- Full EMT Medical Kit that includes a portable defibrillator and oxygen tank.
- Control panels to run the vehicle computer, sirens, radios, etc.
- Road flares for accidents.
- A shovel to help with clearing snow, dirt, etc.
- A broom to clean-up things like broken glass from the roadway.
- Fire extinguisher.
- Orange emergency cones.
- Pry-bar to help open locked/jammed doors.
- Biohazard kit for emergencies.
- Blanket for victims of a crime or accident.
- Yellow police tape to cordon off crime/accident scenes.
- Additional plastic handcuffs.
- Small gas container for people who run out of gas.
- Spike strips to impede or stop fleeing vehicles in a pursuit.
"For you or I, (the Taurus) would work really well," Pederson said. "When you put this out for a police car, we have some of our taller officers, they have trouble fitting in."
Ultimately, the choice of which model to invest in is left up to Resnick. He'll write up a recommendation and submit it to Pederson, who will put it into the budget after they receive approval of the expenditures from the Village Board through the budget process.
The board will vote on the budget on Nov. 15.
*Editor's Note: These numbers are based on statewide bid process numbers and do not take into account all the equipment and accessories to outfit a squad car as outlined above.