The Collin County Sheriff's Office is purchasing 11 new specialized SUVs to help negotiate the off-road and uneven terrains of a rural environment.
The Ford Patrol Interceptors will be bought for $331,000 from Philpott Motors through BuyBoard, a local government purchasing cooperative. The funds were budgeted in the 2013 fiscal year using capital vehicle replacement funds.
Public Works Director Jon Kleinheksel presented the purchase at Monday's Commissioners Court meeting, using data compiled over the past 12 months to outline their recommendation for the purchase which, according to him, was the best and most cost-effective fit for officers on patrol.
Photo courtesy of Collin County - The Collin County Sheriff's Office is purchasing 11 new specialized SUVs to help negotiate the off-road and uneven terrains of a rural environment. The Ford Patrol Interceptor features include electronic stability control, anti-stab seat shields, programmable steering wheels and the ability to withstand a 75-mph rear crash.
"Because Ford discontinued production of the Police Interceptor Crown Victoria in 2011, public works compared and analyzed the offerings from various manufacturers (Ford, Chevy and Dodge) for the county's next patrol vehicle," Kleinheksel stated in a memo to the court.
Commissioner Cheryl Williams recently spent a day with one of the patrol officers and said the larger vehicles will better serve officers, as opposed to the Crown Victorias officers are currently using.
Other vehicles that were considered were the 2013 Ford Taurus for $27,110 each and the 2011 Crown Victoria, priced at $27,600. The 2013 Ford Patrol was priced at $30,054, but the $3,000 difference gives the county substantial advantages such as all-wheel drive and increased ground clearance, which fits a rural application, Williams said.
"It's critical for us to use SUVs; it's an opportunity for us to really improve what they're driving," Williams said. "For those officers on patrol in rural areas, they've got some terrain they've got to get over and I don't think the Taurus will be able to handle it."
The public works department maintains 13 patrol vehicles for the sheriff's office, nine of which are up for replacement this year and one next January. After reviewing the production data and test driving each model, both departments chose the Ford Patrol SUV because it is the only four-wheel drive SUV that is police rated, Kleinheksel said.
Other patrol features include electronic stability control, anti-stab seat shields, programmable steering wheels and the ability to withstand a 75-mph rear crash. All interior dimensions also exceed the Ford sedan and offer more cargo space.
Due to the role they serve, patrol cars are judged by a different standard than most county vehicles. Each unit is evaluated as it approaches 80,000 miles, and depending on the overall condition, it may be designated for replacement. Historically, these vehicles accrue 65,000 to 85,000 miles per year and are typically replaced at 85,000 to 100,000 miles, according to the public works study.
"It is imperative that public works staff order the replacements early in the fiscal year to avoid the manufacturer's build out/cutoff date for that model year," Kleinheksel said. "The duration between order date and vehicle delivery is typically 90 to120 days. Upon delivery, the vehicle must complete 'make-ready' in which lights, equipment, radios and decals are installed before it can enter service."
The new vehicles will increase fuel economy from 14/21 mpg to 17/23 mpg, while offering an increase of 50 horsepower. Testing was conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department as part of the 2010 Law Enforcement Vehicle test and Evaluation Program, and the vehicle scored high marks in all categories including vehicle dynamics, acceleration and braking.
Commissioner Matt Shaheen suggested purchasing a mix of SUVs and Tauruses to help offset cost, to which Kleinheksel said both vehicles meet the officers' needs but they preferred the SUV. Shaheen then asked Sheriff Terry Box if all of the vehicles needed to be SUVs, emphasizing concerns regarding gas mileage.
Box also said he believes the SUVs will last longer than the Crown Victorias, which will help offset gas costs. He said there are also other reasons why the Taurus was not considered as a patrol vehicle.
"We really thought we'd like to go the Tahoe route but that was way too much," he said. "Trunk space and passenger-wise, putting a cage in is pretty much impossible for the Taurus. We can't find any cages made for the Taurus right now. The Taurus' ground clearance was a problem; we found it would be hard for it to go anywhere really other than on pavement."
While the study did show competitive standings with the sedans, Box said the addition of the SUVs will be an asset not only due to the added space, but also because of their towing ability. Pulling vehicles from ditches and rural areas has proven quite difficult, if not impossible, using the Crown Victorias.
Williams said the SUVs should also be more comfortable for sheriff's department employees.
"They also have a tremendous amount of equipment they carry with them," Williams said. "The Crown Vic's trunk was completely full [and] the guy I rode with was [Kleinheksel's] size. Watching him try to get in and out of the Crown Vic looked very uncomfortable and they spend eight hours a day patrolling."
The department is only replacing patrol vehicles with the SUVs, Box said. He added that the cars used for administrative purposes would eventually be replaced by Ford Tauruses or Focuses.