ROSS HOWEY, For the Independent
The discontinuation of the Ford Crown Victoria in April 2011 left police departments with a dilemma as to what the next police vehicle would be.
Replacing the iconic police cruiser vehicle was a daunting task and there were many choices offered up by the big three manufacturers.
The Waterloo Regional Police Service Fleet Committee considered and tested all available options, including the Dodge Charger and both Ford Interceptor models. The Fleet Committee comprised officers from Patrol Divisions, plain clothes detectives, Waterloo Regional Police Association members, Health and Safety Committee members, the training branch, the Director of Finance Joe Steiner and Fleet Services Manager Peter Penlington.
Penlington explained that in the end, the Interceptor, both the sedan and a utility model, were chosen for use by the WRPS. Their use of all-wheel-drive rather than rear-wheel-drive was a major deciding factor against the Dodge Charger, as it provides much safer handling in inclement weather and during emergency responses.
Penlington said that the vehicles are comparatively priced and the improved capability of the Ford Interceptor made it the obvious choice. During high performance testing members of the Fleet Committee found it difficult to put it in a situation that caused the vehicle to lose control.
“No matter what speed we were at, we couldn’t get the rear end to slide” explained Penlington.
This is an especially important factor in the Region of Waterloo considering its large size and the WRPS wants to be able to ensure their officers are able to get where they need to be.
This factor was illustrated by Constable Derek Gardener of the Canine Unit when he said he was able to accelerate on wet grass without spinning the rear tires.
The Ford Interceptor Sedan model will eventually replace all of the current Crown Victorias currently in use for general patrol and by the traffic division.
The utility version has already been purchased and is in use by the canine officers as it gives them space in the back for their dog. There are also running boards along the side to allow the dog to step into the higher vehicle without causing them to overextend and injure themselves, an important factor for the canine officers and their dogs.
The Ford Interceptor Utility is also the only SUV-based police vehicle that is pursuit rated, thus allowing it to travel with more stability at higher speeds, an important feature especially to the canine officers as they are often traveling all across the region depending on where they are needed. The reaction from the canine officers is overall a positive one; they say that they can tell when they are driving it that it has been purpose-designed for police work.
“I would take this vehicle over any other police vehicle I have driven,” said Constable Michael McKay, of the canine unit.
In both the sedan and utility models, the console area has been entirely redesigned by the WRPS and D&R Electronics in an effort to improve officer safety in the event of an accident.
Penlington said that these vehicles are the first airbag compliant police vehicles in Canada, which means that the airbags are able to deploy without having anything in the way, unlike in most current police vehicles.
The laptop computer usually sits on a stand in the way of where the passenger airbag deploys, presenting a danger to officers. The new design has the screen built into the dashboard and a smaller keyboard on the console area. Penlington said the work was completed by D&R Electronics, the company that also installs the majority of emergency lights and siren equipment. The new cars also feature a hard plastic prisoner compartment seat, preventing anyone from hiding evidence in the back and making it much easier to clean out.
Ford is also offering to cover the roof and doors in a white vinyl from the factory, a time and cost-saving measure as this means the vehicles will not have to be repainted before being auctioned off at the end of their life. Penlington said this is a cost-saving measure that could save considerable amounts of money across the entire fleet over time.
He also explained the WRPS decal scheme is applied by fleet services and the design will remain the same as it was on the Crown Victorias as the highly visible blue and white. The contrasting color scheme helps to distinguish the vehicles as official police cars and helps improve visibility to the community.
Three Utility models and 40 Sedans have been ordered and more will be on the way as the Crown Victorias run through their three year life span. Comparatively, the cost of the new vehicles is similar to the cost of the Crown Victorias, potentially less, as the new vehicles offer a potential fuel savings. Penlington says that the total cost of each new vehicle is roughly $45,000, although this cost will be mediated by reusing equipment currently on the Crown Victorias.
This includes many of the emergency lights that are on the vehicles, as well as the laptops which could save thousands of dollars per vehicle. Keep your eyes open for the new vehicles on the road in the near future as they start being integrated to the fleet.