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Updated: Friday, 15 Mar 2013, 7:01 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 15 Mar 2013, 11:32 AM EDT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The Grand Rapids Police Department is about to make a major change in the way officers patrol the streets.
On March 19, the City Commission's Fiscal Policy Committee will decide on a request to buy 12 Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles, which is the emergency services version of the company's Explorer SUV, at a cost of $384,000.
For years, GRPD and other West Michigan police agencies have relied on Ford's Crown Victoria Police Interceptor as their main patrol vehicle. Ford stopped building the full-size, rear-wheel drive sedan in 2011.
Many of GRPD's older model Crown Victorias are at the replacement stage. GRPD purchased 28 Crown Victorias in early 2011.
Since then, officers have been evaluating different police vehicle offerings to decide the next generation of vehicles for the department, including the Dodge Charger, Chevrolet Caprice, Ford Explorer and another vehicle based on Ford's Taurus.
Why an SUV?
Officers who tested the vehicles liked the Ford products. Earlier this year, the City purchased one Taurus and one Explorer. The Explorer won out.
The SUV will run about $1,600 more per vehicle than Ford's sedan offering -- a police version of the Taurus. And they will get one or two miles per gallon less than those sedans.
Still, the mileage on the police Explorer is about a 35% improvement over the Crown Victoria. And the SUV version is expected to fetch a higher resale value than sedans.
But the biggest reason is size and capability.
They'll be better in the snow, and the long range costs of operating the SUVs is expected to be much lower than other vehicles tested.
And the SUVs give officers, who spend most of their 12-hour shifts behind the wheel, more room compared to the sedans.
"Especially with some of our larger officers, when you throw in all of our additional equipment, our cameras our computers, radar, things of that nature...it almost eliminates the ability of using two-man units, which we do use frequently," said Grand Rapids Police Support Services Division Captain Dave Kiddle.
GRPD officers were sent as far as Arizona to test potential vehicles.
They even had the City physician offer up an opinion.
"She compared and watched the officers getting in and out, and she determined that it was better for the officers for the Utility, basically on the knees and back and the hip area, especially with the gun belt," said Kiddle.
Her diagnosis is one reason department brass decided $1,600 additional for the Ford Police Interceptor Utility was worth the cost.
"One workers' compensation claim due to an injury such as that will cover the additional cost of the Utility," said Kiddle.
According to Ford's website, the front-wheel drive Taurus with a 3.7 liter V6 engine gets an estimated 18 miles per gallon city and 26 miles per gallon highway.
The all-wheel drive SUV with the same engine averages 16 city, 22 highway.
Both vehicles show fuel economy improvements of up to 25% over the V8-powered Crown Victorias, while adding more horsepower -- a critical feature for officers in pursuit.
For now, Grand Rapids appears to be the only large department in the area switching to an SUV.
In Wyoming, the police department has been purchasing Dodge Chargers. Department officials said they will continue using Chargers for patrol, but are considering the purchase of two Ford Explorer Police Interceptor vehicles for their K-9 officers, and two for the Department's supervisors.
"The Interceptor is more practical for K-9 and supervisors for the simple fact that they provide more space for equipment storage," said Wyoming PD Captain Kim Koster.
On the West Michigan lakeshore, both the Ottawa and Muskegon county sheriff's departments said they've gone to the all-wheel drive version of the Taurus-based Interceptor.
Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler said his deputies have been very happy with the performance of Taurus. The department purchased three last year and plans on buying three more.
Lt. Steve Kempker handles fleet purchases for the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department.
"Excellent car for us, one of best in my career," Kempker told 24 Hour News 8.
In Kalamazoo County, Undersheriff Pali Matyas said his department is still deciding on the next vehicle.
"Taurus is too small for our blood," said Matyas.
He is looking at the Dodge and Chevy sedans, as well as the Ford Explorer. But for right now, the Department will stay with the law enforcement version of the larger Chevrolet Tahoe.
Matyas said the cost to outfit the cars with cages and accessories is part of the process.
"We currently have the accessories to fit Tahoes, so that is why we bought more Tahoes this year," said Matyas.
"The cost difference between the Crown Vics and the Tahoes was not that much."
Officials with the City of Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety are preparing to ask city commissioners to consider the two-wheel drive Chevrolet Tahoes to replace their aging fleet
of Crown Vics.
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Officer Ryan Tibbets said like Grand Rapids, they're concerned with injuries to officers.
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officers handle law enforcement, fire and EMS calls. He said reaching into the trunk of a sedan for heavy equipment, like firefighter turn-out gear and air tanks, have caused injuries in the past.
The estimated price of the Tahoe is $1,780 more than the police version of the Taurus.
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