By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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And along the way, the new vehicles get better gas mileage.
“Our cars lead a hard life driving around Port Townsend,” said Officer Luke Bogues, the department's spokesman.
“We expect these new vehicles to hold up better than the Crown Victorias we replaced.
“These are a real step forward.”
The Ford Crown Victoria, for years the preferred law enforcement vehicle, was discontinued in 2011, after which time police departments around the country scrambled for solutions.
The Ford Police Interceptor, based on the company's popular Explorer SUV, has become the preferred option for many departments, Bogues said
Port Townsend police officers are assigned to specific cars, and the new vehicles will be allocated to those with the most seniority: Sgt. Joe Kaare, Sgt. Troy Surber and Officer Sherry Erickson.
The Interceptor utility model was selected after two years of analyzing patrol vehicles from three manufacturers and gathering input from other agencies.
“This seems to be the vehicle that is leading the way to replace the Crown Victoria,” Bogues said.
“Agencies that got the smaller vehicles found they didn't have enough room to transport all their gear.”
After hearing reports that vehicle models other than the Police Interceptor utility vehicles reported the cars were difficult to maintain, too small for officers and detainees, used too much fuel,and were made overseas, the department selected the vehicles, which cost about $50,000 each.
The purchase, which replaces cars from the 2003 and 2004 model years, was made using the equipment repair and replacement fund, a budgeted expense the department pays into annually for repair and eventual replacement of every fleet vehicle.
Replacement of other Crown Victoria police cars in the fleet, some of which are now approaching 12 years old, is anticipated in coming years.
“I could get a new cruiser this year, or the next,” said Bogues, who is a bit farther down on the seniority list.
Aside from better mileage — 15 miles per gallon as opposed to a Crown Victoria's 11 mpg — the new vehicles save power with an integrated lighting system rather than the more power-intensive light bars on the older cars.
“This increases mileage because the light bars on the top of the vehicle increases drag on the wind,” Bogues said.
The available technology is comparable, including built-in radar, dash cameras and telecommunication equipment.
One difference is a fully integrated computer as opposed to the standard laptops that are used by other officers.
The Interceptor is an American-made crossover built on a car chassis but offers more room inside, similar to that of a sport utility vehicle.
The same model is being adopted by other agencies such as the sheriff's offices in Jefferson and Kitsap counties, the Sequim and Bremerton police departments and the Washington State Patrol.
The difference, according to Bogues, is the color: a dark metallic blue that contrasts with the other cars in the Port Townsend fleet, which are white.
“We want to be uniquely Port Townsend and symbolize that these are our cars,” Bogues said of the color choice.
The new vehicles are roomier. The rear storage area has a lot more space for all the required equipment than a standard trunk on other patrol car models, Bogues said.
The back seat, which is actually a form-fitting piece of plastic, is closer to the floor and has increased foot space, making it more adaptable to animal-control calls than a standard cruiser.
“People aren't getting any smaller,” Bogues said.
“We were in situations where people were compliant until they saw the little back seats and didn't want to get inside, and it became a risk to their safety and our safety.”
Aside from the increased back-seat room the plastic is easier to clean messes left behind by animals or humans.
Bogues said the new four-wheel-drive vehicles are easier to manage in the snow than the Crown Victorias, which were powered by V8 engines and rear-wheel drive.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.