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Are We All Still Deciding?

Written by Brad Brewer

August 2011 was the final month of production for the iconic Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. While many mourned the loss of arguably the best overall police vehicle of its time, not everybody has gotten over its departure. Some didn’t believe it was being dropped. Some purchased extras of the last model year so they could watch what other agencies decided.

At this years’ Police Fleet Expo in Kansas City, there was a common theme running through all three Agency Workshops: “So what are you guys replacing your Crown Vics with?”

Even though we are three years into the NextGen police vehicles, some agencies (no matter what size) are still undecided, and seem to not even want to make a choice. The last year of CVPIs are getting long in the tooth. It is time to make a decision.

The process is not difficult. Get a few of each model and send them out for field evaluations. Simple as that. All three OEMs make really good police vehicles, and the amount of dedicated police technology and engineering is unprecedented. So, why the reluctance or hesitation?

One reason may be that the testing of these new vehicles can sometimes be difficult when your test officer pool is biased. Biased by what? A phrase coined by Sevierville, Tenn. Capt. Matt Ayers describes the bias as “The Crown Vic mindset.”

The older generation officers were very happy with their CVPI. Many prefer to drive them until the keys are pried out of their hands. We all know of officers keeping their CVPIs well beyond the intended duty cycle. So what effect does this have on the testing of the new generation vehicles? It is difficult to send the new generation of police vehicles out for some unbiased, constructive front line testing when the testers have “Crown Vic mindset.”

Retail vehicle design and safety standards will always drive police vehicle design. These next-generation police vehicles must comply with a different set of safety standards. For example, the NextGen cars don’t have CVPI-style skinny A, B, and C pillars. You can’t have increased occupant safety standards without some reinforcement. The CVPI had nowhere near the safety systems that today’s vehicles do. The boron steel and high-strength steel cages these new vehicles have now will save lives but yet some still resist them.

The Crown Vic mindset that some officers have needs to change. We can’t continue to ignore the benefits of these new vehicles: much safer; better fuel mileage; better acceleration, braking and cornering; fewer greenhouse emissions; lower total cost of ownership. Unfortunately, officers continue to get injured or die in vehicle related incidents, some of which would likely have a different outcome (including no collision at all) if the officers were driving any of the newer generation products.

For their part, the police-fleet management staff needs to be sure their new vehicle testing program is fair and equitable for both the older officers transitioning out of the legacy CVPIs and the newer officers who are well versed in technology. Face it, newer officers adapt significantly quicker than someone who started their career when Adam 12 was in prime time.

Future fleet purchases are going to have to serve the new officers who have grown up with a smartphone and a vehicle that meets those current safety requirements. We owe it to these officers and their families to get our officers into the safest vehicle that fits our needs and deployment.

There is no direct replacement for the CVPI, so think out of the box. Get a few of each: sedans, crossovers, SUVs. Test them in full uniform and by officers of all sizes and both genders. There are some agencies starting to decommission their first order of NextGen vehicles, so don’t let your agency get too far behind.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, May/Jun 2014

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