In 2011, after two-decades as the vehicle of choice for police departments across the United States, the Ford Motor Company discontinued the Crown Victoria. With the departure of the Crown Victoria, police administrators were left with the difficult decision of selecting a replacement for their iconic fleet workhorse.
Each of the "big three" U.S. auto manufacturers stood ready to offer replacements. Ford put forth a single-platform option with either sedan or utility body styles (Taurus and Explorer respectively). Dodge offered up the 4-door sedan Charger, while Chevrolet delivered the 4-door sedan Caprice PPV and utility based Tahoe PPV (Police Purpose Vehicle).
After thorough review, discussions with area police administrators and analysis of the two primary industry studies conducted by the Michigan State Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Scituate Police Department selected the PPV platforms offered by Chevrolet. Both vehicles scored exceptionally well in safety, vehicle dynamics, ergonomics and overall cost of ownership.
All of the vehicles reviewed by the department are categorized as police package, "pursuit rated" vehicles. To become "pursuit rated" and therefore acceptable for high speed law enforcement use, a vehicle must complete a 2.45 mile city street course in less than 4 minutes and 45 seconds. The course, which is representative of the type of environment most law enforcement agencies operate within, has virtually no straight-a-ways and consists of right and left turns, with various obstacles in the roadway. How a vehicle performs in this course is a strong indicator of how the vehicle will function in a patrol environment when responding to emergencies. These vehicle dynamics encapsulate the primary characteristics which allow an officer to safely and effectively provide emergency response to the community.
Each year, the Scituate Police department purchases replacement vehicles through statewide or county contracts. While the initial purchase price of each vehicle is comparable and competitive among its peers, the department also pays serious consideration to the overall life cycle of cost of the vehicle and day-to-day serviceability. It is of particular note that the Chevrolet Tahoe has the lowest overall cost of ownership of any other police vehicle available on the market. Also of interesting note, the Chevrolet Tahoe has a shorter wheelbase and better MPG than its predecessor, the Ford Crown Victoria.
With the departure of the Crown Victoria, most agencies are also choosing to depart from the sedan based vehicle platform. Vehicle manufacturers and law enforcement agencies have recognized the enhanced functionality and versatility of a utility police package. For a community like Scituate, this functionality provides a significantly better platform to transport and access the myriad of tools required by today's first responders including, mobile data computers, water survival gear, entry tools, first aid and other rescue equipment necessary in a coastal community.
As residents begin to see more of these utility based police vehicles in Scituate and surrounding communities, they should also recognize that these are significantly different than standard "off-the-lot" vehicles, in terms of both pricing and option packages. These are work vehicles with specially tuned suspensions, drivetrains and safety features designed for emergency response.
Another difference with cruisers that may be noted is the tinted windows. There are several reasons this has become a standard practice among police agencies which include:
- Officer Safety - The tint obscures visibility into the cruiser providing officer's with a tactical advantage over suspects.
- Reduces Glare - The cruisers are equipped with mobile data computer terminals. The tint reduces the amount of sunlight glare enhancing officer's ability to see the computer screens.
- Protect the Anonymity of a person being detained and/or a victim during a suspect show-up.
The Scituate Police Department was able to acquire several military surplus vehicles as a result of a grant written by Officer James Bulman in 2011. The vehicles came from what was called the 1033 program in which the vehicles were deemed to be in "excess to needs" for the commands they were in. These commands included overseas deployments in Iraq and Bosnia. As a result, many coastal communities were able to benefit by adding these vehicles to their fleets to assist in emergency situations.
In total, SPD acquired three Humvees, one of which is used primarily to keep the other two running, and one M898 5 Ton cargo truck. The Humvees were stripped of their military equipment and then sanded and painted. All the painting was done by Jeff Perette, owner of Eascoast Fiberglass. Additionally, all the vehicles had to be converted from a 24 volt system to a 12 volt system in order to have operable lights, sirens, and powerpoints. Tom McNeice was able to complete all the electrical work on the vehicles. The Humvees can go through 30 inches of water and can navigate through roads covered in deep snow, rocks and debris that otherwise could not be reached by patrol vehicles.
The 5 ton cargo truck has not yet been painted or modified however, The Hingham National Guard was able to donate folding seats made for the rear of the truck and a ladder was installed in the rear of the truck to make it easier to load and unload people. The 5 ton can navigate in up to seven feet of water.
In the short time SPD has had the vehicles, they have proven to be of immeasurable assistance to both SPD and SFD's operations during storms; particularly involving emergency evacuations.