RIO VISTA — What more could a police department want other than a plastic vomit- and excretion-proof backseat?
It turns out, a pursuit-rated vehicle and fleet of cars to call its own. Plus a few extra bucks in the city’s general fund.
Rio Vista Police Chief Greg Bowman, driving in the abandoned Liberty Island subdivision, turned some tight right corners with ease in the first of a new fleet of SUVs to arrive at the police station on Poppy House Road. The vehicle, complete with an unvarnished new car smell, was just shy of 150 miles on the odometer – several hundred fewer than the optimum break-in mileage needed before putting the vehicle in service.
The department purchased four marked and two unmarked Ford Utility Interceptors, plus a pickup truck, through a state fleet contract. The move is a departure from the norm in a couple of ways: First, the fleet previously was leased through the county and second, Bowman elected to move the fleet from Crown Victorias to the Ford sport utility vehicle.
The former is for financial reasons and the latter because of the performance, handling and cargo capacity – all important attributes to the space that is to become the patrol officer’s office.
“This one had the best of all worlds,” Bowman said of the SUV.
As the purchase process drew to a close, the patrol vehicles made their way through Lehr Automotive/Pursuit North in Martinez to be outfitted for patrol – everything from original seats removed to be replaced with the easy-clean hard plastic in the backseat to installation of light bars. It’s a near-new vehicle with all the specialized equipment added – a necessity to “withstand the challenges of police work,” said Sgt. Dave Pascoe.
“Ninety percent of it is different,” he said of the vehicle once it is fitted for police work.
Much of the equipment, even that which will be removed upon selling the vehicles in a few years, had to be purchased new. With the county, Bowman said, they owned nothing except for the computers and radios.
“It’s nice,” Bowman said of a new city-owned fleet. “We’ve been dependent upon the county for so long.”
The city paid a monthly lease price, plus repairs associated with damage and mileage. The base price of the cars amounted to $36,000 each year: mileage charges totaled an additional $42,000. With the Police Department reaching full staff last summer, the total bill to the county was expected to reach $86,000 annually.
In pitching the idea to the Rio Vista City Council in August, Bowman said the annual payment to Ford Credit Municipal Finance would be $64,189 for five years – a $21,000 savings in vehicle payments.
At the end of the five years, the city could then choose to sell the vehicles – estimated value for a retired police car ranges from $5,000 to $7,000, Bowman said – as opposed to realizing nothing at the end of a patrol car’s life owned by the county.
Bowman named a few agencies still beholden to the county for vehicles, such as Suisun City, Dixon and the Sheriff’s Office.
“Everyone else has its own fleet,” he said.
Now that the police vehicles are coming in, the challenge is to get the break-in miles completed so the county fleet can be returned right around the end of the year. Bowman has encouraged each of his officers to take the patrol cars out, not only to gain a familiarity for the new vehicle, but also to put those needed miles on the car to break in the engine.
Breaking in the vehicle, ensuring such abilities as rabbit starts, is important because it’s unknown what the officer is going to encounter in the first 300 miles. Pascoe said it’s a balance in getting the officers in a reliable vehicle as quickly as possible and not compromising the life of vehicle.
Soon after the arrival of the first vehicle, Officer Justin Bridges took it out for a spin. He cited the brighter lights, the all-wheel drive and the internal ergonomics as positive changes in the cars. Then there’s an aesthetic benefit: The hard plastic seats don’t absorb odors.
“They’re comfortable, which is nice because we spend a lot of time in here,” he said of the new vehicles.
Bridges called it a huge improvement over the Crown Vics, which he described as old, with some pushing 100,000 miles and a couple beyond that threshold.
Bowman, in his staff report to the City Council in August, said the county was to either replace the vehicles in five years or 85,000 miles, which has not been done.
” . . . Three of the existing four marked patrol units are well over 85,000 and no indication has been given as to a definitive timeline for replacement, despite repeated requests,” he wrote to the council in August.
Bridges said the department is excited about the new vehicles.
“We’re in a fortunate situation that we can have them,” he said.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.