Newtown residents paying attention to the comings and goings of local police responders have likely noticed that the familiar slate blue Ford Crown Victoria sedans are sharing the road with brand-new and more compact Chevrolet “black and white” cruisers.
While the department also counts a Ford Explorer SUV, a Dodge Charger, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a couple of mountain bicycles and various other unmarked vehicles among its fleet, Sergeant Aaron Bahamonde told The Bee recently that in the coming weeks, additional Chevy cruisers and several new Ford Interceptor SUVs will hit the streets.
The Chevrolet Caprice PPVs (police patrol vehicles) are a specialized model not yet available for public sale, and share some key similarities with the retiring Ford “Crown Vics.” They are powered by rear wheel drive and an eight-cylinder engine.
But that is where the similarities end.
While the Crown Victorias have a shift on the steering column, the Chevy model’s shifter is on the center console. And the engine powering the Chevys, according to Sgt Bahamonde’s research, is among or the most highly regarded by mechanics for its power and reliability.
“I talked to several [police department] head mechanics who work on patrol cars who describe this Chevy engine as ‘bulletproof.’ They say you just can’t kill it,” he said. The police fleet supervisor thinks taxpayers will also appreciate that while the purchase price of the Chevys is several thousand dollars more than the Crown Vics, they are more fuel efficient and come with a five-year, 100,000-mile power train warranty.
The Crown Vics only came with a three-year/30,000-mile warranty, which forced the department to purchase a supplemental mechanical breakdown plan for each patrol car, since most are expected to run up in excess of 100,000 miles while serving the community.
Since acquiring the Chevrolets for Newtown’s patrol officers, Sgt Bahamonde learned the availability of those cruisers has become limited, driving up the purchase price.
“First, these Chevrolets are made in Australia, so departments are limited to the inventory they can ship here,” he explained. “And this year, the price has increased from $26,000 to $27,500.”
That left Sgt Bahamonde and the local force to consider all-wheel-drive Ford Interceptor sedans for the fleet, or Ford’s larger all-wheel-drive Interceptor SUVs. More good news came when the department went out to bid on the SUVs.
“We already decided we needed more four-wheel-drive vehicles, and I was surprised when that bid came back at $26,000 for each of three Ford SUVs,” he said. One of those new SUVs will be specially outfitted to replace the town’s K-9 unit, currently a Crown Victoria, with the other two heading out as regular patrol units.
“The Ford Interceptor SUVs are roomier than the Chevys, and they provide more alternatives for placing equipment,” he said. “The all-wheel-drive makes them safer, especially during winter weather, and they have greater visibility.”
Newtown’s vendor for the Ford SUVs is even increasing the manufacturer’s power train warranty to match the Chevrolets for five years or 100,000 miles.
Costs To Outfit
Returning to the tools, brackets, harnesses and other equipment required by officers, Sgt Bahamonde explained that each new vehicle costs about $7,000 more to outfit, but provided the department stays with the new vehicles it is acquiring, all those new pieces of hardware can be transferred instead of being replaced outright.
“We are reusing everything we can in the new vehicles, including the computer ‘Tough Books,’ the patrol rifle, and rechargeable Mag Light flashlight system,” he said. All of the well-used emergency light bars will be among the more expensive items that need replacing.
Still, he added, a new department vendor has been identified, which is providing many of the new hardware items at the lowest cost Sgt Bahamonde has seen. For example, light bars for the Chevys that list for $4,300 are available under a state purchasing program for $2,601. But Newtown’s new vendor is delivering them for $2,250.
“He treats us like we’re a 100-car agency,” Sgt Bahamonde said. “The owner is a former Newtown resident. I believe he is also outfitting the new town fire marshal vehicle.”
The “cages,” or interior compartments for individuals being transported in the vehicles, will not be transferred between the Fords and Chevrolets or SUVs. Sgt Bahamonde said that the cages are well worn and would require too many modifications to justify trying to fit them into new vehicles.
“With most of the hardware in the Crown Victorias, if we try and switch them to our new vehicles, we void the warranties anyway,” he said. “Our Ford cages have lasted more than ten years, and I expect the ones we install in the new vehicles will last longer.”
And while the deactivated Crown Victorias will no longer be fit for the rigors of 24-hour patrol duty, they will continue to serve the town and generate revenue by remaining available for construction site duty. The town is also discussing using some of the most reliable Crown Vics as transportation for school safety officers being considered for the force.
According to Newtown Finance Director Robert Tait, the town expects to collect revenue in excess of $75,000 annually from retired patrol cars that are used at roadside construction sites.