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Dave Zajac Record-Journal
Officer Thomas Petro walks past a 2014 Ford Sport Utility Vehicle at the Southington Police Dept., Friday, April 25, 2014. Local police departments are switching their force to new S.U.V.'s after production stopped of the iconic Crown Victoria, left, a couple years ago. | Dave Zajac / Record-Journal

Police switching to Sport Utility Vehicles after retirement of Crown Victoria model

After Ford stopped production of the iconic Crown Victoria, a common police car, police departments began searching for alternatives. Some tried out Ford’s first replacement, based on the Taurus, but many area departments are now opting for Ford’s police sport-utility vehicle based on the Explorer.

Southington Sgt. Jeffrey Dobratz, police spokesman, and Officer Thomas Petro, said the department’s first purchase after the Crown Victoria was the Taurus model in April 2012. But since the first sedan, Dobratz said the department has purchased eight new SUVs and four new sedans. The SUV – the Ford Police Interceptor Utility – is more popular with the officers because the larger size fits their equipment and still leaves room for comfort, Dobratz said.

Both the SUV and sedan have all-wheel drive, but the SUV’s ground clearance makes it better for getting around in the snow.

“It’s roomier and makes more sense for New England weather,” Dobratz said.

The goal for the fleet is to phase out sedans and switch entirely to SUVs over the next few years, Dobratz said. With new technology, the SUV is better on gas mileage than the old Crown Victorias, and are engineered for fuel economy while idling, which makes them a good match for a front line police vehicle, Dobratz said.

Each year, the town budgets for a couple of new vehicles. Since the price difference between the sedan and SUV isn’t much, the department will continue to look at getting the SUVs, Petro said. The 2014 town budget allocates $164,000 for the purchase of four new SUVs.

Cheshire Lt. Brian Pichnarcik said the department purchased one of the sedans and one of the SUVs to evaluate them. The department will only be looking to buy SUVs in the future.

“Ford established itself as a leader in the market,” Pichnarcik said about the decision to stay with the same manufacturer.

Pichnarcik said officers liked the height of the SUV allowing them to see into cars better and the extra room inside. Cheshire rotates out two or three cars per year, so in six or seven years the whole fleet of about 12 vehicles will change over. The old cars are usually sold through a bid process. Cab companies from New York have bought them in the past, Pichnarcik said.

Usually the chief budgets for a few new vehicles each year, but that can vary based on the department’s needs, Pichnarcik said. Pichnarcik said the cost to operate the sedan and SUV is about the same, and many of the parts, including tires and oil filters are interchangeable.

Meriden Captain Michael Zakrzewski said Meriden also began the switch to the new Ford sedans and SUVs and, like other local departments, prefers the SUV. The ground clearance helps in negotiating the cities many hills during the winter, Zakrzewski said.

Idling time contributes to wear and tear, Zakrzewski said. Every hour of idling equates to about 33 miles, Zakrzewski said. A vehicle with about 60,000 miles on the odometer and 1,000 hours of idling time, a standard amount for a police vehicle, would have the wear and tear of about 93,000 miles, Zakrzewski said.

Zakrzewski said the department decided to stay with Ford because it had a good experience with the Crown Victoria. The package the department was offered with the SUV was a good deal, and the feedback from other departments was good as well, Zakrzewski said.

One of the main aspects of buying new vehicles is to stay on top of it each year, Zakrzewski said.

“The vehicles take a tremendous beating,” Zakrzewski said.

Wallingford Lt. Anthony DeMaio said the department has 16 of the new Ford sedans, making up about half of its fleet of 30 vehicles. DeMaio said the decision was made by the top brass to go with the sedans instead of the SUVs. The sedans are all-wheel drive and handle better than the older cars, DeMaio said, but space can be a bit tight once all the equipment is installed. The police department upgraded several of the technology systems it uses, including the in-car video system and the computers, DeMaio said.

“They’re working out good for us, we like them,” DeMaio said of the new sedans.

Some of the Crown Victorias were kept in the fleet to use for field training or some of the administrative positions, DeMaio said.

lsievert@record-journal.com (203) 317-2225 Twitter: @LaurenSievertRJ



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