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Fleet Profile: Superior, WI Police Department

Written by Robert Montgomery

The city of Superior, WI has a population of 26,000 people spread across 62 square miles, which includes a municipal forest. Chief Floyd Peters leads the department, and Sergeant Mark McGillis is the fleet manager. The Superior Police Department has 58 sworn officers, 15 auxiliary officers, 12 crossing guards and three secretaries.

The city of Superior was incorporated in 1857. SPD fleet manager is a sworn position, which handles police fleet purchases. A city fleet manager handles all other fleet purchases for other city departments. SPD budgets $159,000 a year for new vehicle purchases, and maintenance budgets are handled by the city. The agency has 40 units for the department, 14 of which are marked patrol cars. The administrative division and detectives have 12 unmarked units with the remainder being support for SWAT, DARE and community service.

Superior uses a shared command center with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, Fire and Emergency Government. The police department also has a special use trailer for a joint rescue / dive team with surrounding agencies. SPD has two leased Harley-Davidson motors and plans on purchasing two new units in FY09, which will save the department $7,500 a year. The department’s primary units are Ford CVPIs, which make up 70% of its fleet. The rest of the fleet except for one Jeep used in parking enforcement are Chevy SUVs.

SPD uses all pool vehicles except the chief of police and a school liaison, who have take-home units. The pooled fleet vehicles average 20K to 25K miles per year. Marked vehicles are replaced every two to three years. These vehicles are sent to auction with mileage between 85K and 125K miles. Before auction, all units are stripped of all markings, cleaned and detailed. The city uses a private auction to dispose of its retired units along with other city vehicles. Funds from the auction are returned to the general fund and can be returned to the fleet budget the next year.

The city of Superior has a fleet maintenance department, which handles all maintenance issues with police units. The maintenance department uses Appleton software to track its fleet and will change over to RTA (Robert Turner & Associates) software in the near future. SPD uses Goodyear tires for patrol cars and aftermarket pads and rotors after the OE has worn out. The city fleet manager is responsible for oil-change intervals, which are completed about every 2,500 miles. The city fleet department has assigned one mechanic to work on police units.

The city runs it own fuel station for city vehicles. With in-ground tanks, the city has an RF ID system installed in each vehicle. This tracks each unit’s fuel consumption for maximum fuel efficiency through the AIMS II system (Automotive Information Management System). The city plans on having the system paid off in 10 years or less.

New units are upfitted at Duluth Superior Communications, which provides complete installation service. Each unit is fitted with a master cut-off, which is installed in the driver’s compartment to keep battery drain down. Officers must manually manipulate the switch to provide power to emergency equipment. In new units, a new cut-off switch will be installed that will monitor the battery and will activate when the battery drains to a certain level. The Pro Max Priority Start will activate when the battery gets to a certain percentage, allowing the battery to have enough of a charge to start the vehicle.

All of SPD marked units are equipped with prisoner partitions and carry a variety of other equipment. In the trunk of each unit is a lifejacket and a life ring for water rescues, a first-aid kit, an emergency blanket, a fire extinguisher, traffic cones and other items that total a weight of about 40 pounds.

McGillis’ biggest challenge is the constant upkeep of his fleet. Electronics and laptop computers are constantly failing, which reduces officer productivity. Vehicle breakdowns are always problematic and pose a larger problem when off line for extended periods. With a smaller fleet, it is harder to keep units available for the patrol officers. The SPD sees an average yearly maintenance cost between $3,590 to $3,873 for each police unit.

One cost-saving idea McGillis has is a take-home fleet. The initial cost is shocking. However, the long-term savings need to be taken into account. Additional vehicles would add tire, brake and oil service purchases, but the units would be driven one-third less compared with 24/7. McGillis projects that vehicles would be kept for seven years versus the two to three years they are kept now. With the take-home fleet, the department would have more accountability for the vehicles with maintenance and cleanliness.

McGillis has been with the SPD for 15 years and has been working with the fleet for the past 7 months. His career in law enforcement spans 20 years. He is currently assigned to the traffic bureau. Before that, he was assigned to the patrol division as a patrol supervisor for the past 9 years, mostly working the night shift. He also administers traffic grants (alcohol saturation, speed enforcement, pedestrian safety, seat belt) usually on a yearly basis.

Some of the other duties include maintaining the squads, reviewing accident reports and traffic citations, taxi-cab / limo inspections, special event permits, traffic detours for parades and other events; attending the License and Fees Committee meetings, Public Works Committee meetings, Douglas County Highway Safety Committee quarterly meetings, Mayor’s Commission on Disabilities and any other meetings assigned by the administration.

McGillis would like to see manufacturers develop a vehicle with better gas mileage due to rising fuel costs and vehicles with more legroom for the rear seat after partitions are installed. He would also like standardized accessory wiring in all vehicles to speed installation time.

Lieutenant Robert Montgomery has been in law enforcement for the past 22 years. He is finishing his 16th year with the city of Duluth Police Department where he has been the fleet manager for the past 10 years. He can be reached at rmontgomery@duluthpd.com.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2008

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