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Rising Fuel Prices Affect Agencies Across the Country

Brentwood, TN Police

According to David Gossett, who is in fleet management at the Brentwood, TN Police Department, the only step his agency is taking is re-budgeting for more money. They already have 6-cylinder engines in their police cars and stay on top of their vehicles’ maintenance to make efficient use of their gas.

Chesterfield County, VA Police

At this time, the Chesterfield County, VA Police are taking a measured approach in addressing fuel costs. Chet Smith, administrator, Police Property and Evidence Unit, said the department maintains a fleet of about 630 assorted vehicles that includes police package cruisers, standard mid-size passenger vehicles, vans, motorcycles and a boat.

This year, Chesterfield County is purchasing some police package vehicles with smaller V-6 engines. These vehicles will be mixed into its existing fleet of V-8 police package cruisers. The department intends to closely monitor all costs associated with these vehicles and their performance in the fleet to determine the feasibility of expanding their use. The department is moving away from using larger vehicles like vans and SUVs in assignments where a smaller vehicle is capable of the mission. The detective vehicle fleet is primarily made up of smaller engine, non-police package vehicles.

Chesterfield County is encouraging its officers and other vehicle drivers to voluntarily reduce fuel consumption by planning routes, turning off their vehicles when possible, avoiding unnecessary travel, as well as practicing moderate starts and stops. At this time, they are not making mandatory changes nor are they changing their law enforcement service standards, i.e., calls for service or routine patrols. However, Smith said they are reallocating budgeted funds to cover fuel costs outside their budget lines.

Smith believes Chesterfield County’s preventative maintenance schedule and standards afford optimal vehicle performance. Smith works closely with the garage technicians, maintaining effective communication in making vehicle repair decisions. The department is aware that it may be required to take a more active or restrictive approach to reducing costs in the future, Smith said. By constantly reviewing fleet operations and relative costs, the officers identify cost-saving measures that will minimally affect their law enforcement services.

Danbury, CT

Police Lieutenant Peter Gantert of the Danbury, CT Police said his agency has budgeted more funds for the rising fuel costs in addition to limiting their take-home vehicles. Besides that, they have not changed their day-to-day operations other than keeping better track of preventative maintenance.

Darien, IL

Police Deputy Chief of Administration John B. Cooper of the Darien, IL Police tells his officers not to leave their cars running when not needed, especially when the cars are unattended. One exception to that rule is if the officers are patrolling in below-freezing weather. In addition, they have increased their yearly budget for gas and oil.

Henry County, IA Sheriff’s Office

In the Henry County, IA Sheriff’s Office in Mt. Pleasant, deputies are reminded to make sure that every gallon of fuel they use is used wisely. Sheriff Allen F. Wittmer receives a report every month showing their gallon usage. They have also been told to park more, such as running stationary radar instead of moving radar, as well as sit and watch for stop sign and equipment violations.

At this time, there are no mileage restrictions for patrol in Henry County. Personal miles restrictions have not been addressed yet. In terms of idling restrictions, Wittmer said they are replacing lightbars with LEDs so they can shut off their cars when possible and not run down the batteries. Officers are asked to refrain from keeping their cars parked and idling for long periods of time.

As far as rebudgeting for more gas money, Wittmer said he is about 3% over budget on fuel this fiscal year. He raised his fuel budget 10% for fiscal year 2008-2009. Henry County has not recalled any cars issued to staffers yet, but officers might have to start sharing vehicles due to the economy. At this time, each deputy has a vehicle issued to him. Henry County hasn’t changed its preventative maintenance schedule because it already has a very strict vehicle maintenance program.

Iowa State Patrol

The only action the Iowa State Patrol is taking in the wake of rising fuel prices is re-budgeting for more gas money, according to Captain Mark Probst, fleet and supply commander.

Jonesboro, AR Police

As of May 1, the Jonesboro, AR police chief started a program in which officers who work off-duty jobs are required to reimburse the city for the gas they use. According to Fleet Manager Connie Gellert, that program is a direct result of the rising gas prices. The department also increased its budget for fuel.

Kansas Highway Patrol

Ed Hanlon of the Kansas Highway Patrol believes there is not a lot anyone can do to alleviate the fuel cost crisis. He considers law enforcement a customer service-driven mission. The Kansas Highway Patrol plans to continue operations as normal, but it will increase budgeted funds to try to keep the books balanced. Any time the department can save in another area, it strives to minimize costs. “We will all be tested financially (personally and professionally) well into the future in the form of much higher fossil fuel consumption costs,” Hanlon said.

Lake Charles, LA Police

Fleet Commander Mike Fusilier of the Lake Charles, LA Police said his agency is trying to cut costs everywhere it can due to the high gas prices. That includes limiting off-duty use and transitioning to smaller engines for non-patrol duties, such as detective work. Supervisors are managing idle time and preventative maintenance, as well as limiting personal use. Fusilier said the Lake Charles PD holds officers accountable for preventative maintenance by mandating they get their cars checked once a week. Officers in Lake Charles are not limiting their response, though, as they still respond to every call. “Public service is still number one,” Fusilier stated.

Las Cruces, NM Police

Though the Las Cruces, NM Police have no mileage restrictions, they do have a policy in place that says unless the emergency equipment is on, officers must turn off the vehicles at all calls. Fleet Manager Michael D. Cano said officers are not allowed to use their take-home patrol cars for personal use, but they continue to do their normal patrols of assigned districts.

In terms of re-budgeting, Cano said they are always readjusting for fuel costs, along with the rest of the city, but they have not changed their operations procedures. Officers are encouraged to park their units for two hours per shift—depending on call volume—and ride their assigned bikes for person-to-person contact with the public, putting less mileage on their assigned vehicles. About 70% of the Las Cruces patrol officers are bike certified, and their vehicles have bike racks attached to them with hitches. In addition, all of them have their own department-issued mountain bike for patrol use.

According to Cano, they still respond to all calls for service. They have three civilians in the station office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for calls that do not require an officer’s presence. They take a lot of cold cases, as well as petty and misdemeanor crimes. Las Cruces has not recalled any units assigned to staffers, and they do routine preventative maintenance on all their vehicles. Lastly, they have not and do not plan on reducing their cars’ engine sizes.

Phoenix, AZ Highway Patrol

Sergeant Tim Bolger handles fleet-related issues within the Highway Patrol Division of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Bolger said his fuel budget has remained relatively the same for a number of years. Rising gas prices have made his department look for ways to increase its fuel budget to meet the needs of the agency. “Our governor is committed to public safety and does not want calls for service or proactive patrol to be reduced,” Bolger stated.

All employees in the department are encouraged to carpool when possible. Travel considerations are monitored by supervisors. Arizona’s Highway Patrol employees are encouraged to improve preventative maintenance to get the best mileage out of their vehicles. Employees are also encouraged to fill up at department fuel sites throughout the state. If commercial sites are used, officers are urged to seek out the cheaper prices in their areas.

The department is also exploring options to negotiate increases on mileage reimbursement costs for secondary / off-duty employment jobs who use marked patrol cars. These jobs consist of wide-load escorts and freeway construction projects, to name a few.

Raleigh, NC Police

Vaughn Lowman is the Raleigh, NC Police Service Center supervisor. According to Lowman, the department currently has no mileage restrictions but it does have idling restrictions. Officers must shut off their vehicles if they think they will be running more than expected, or after 10 to 15 minutes of being stopped. No personal mileage restrictions are in place, but routes were adjusted to ensure less random patrol.

Raleigh is re-prioritizing certain calls for service, determining what needs to be responded to or what could be handled by phone or other means. In addition, they are rebudgeting for more gas money like many other agencies. The department is also trying to improve their vehicles’ preventative maintenance to get the best mileage out of them. One way is by using city-provided fueling sites versus using credit cards at any gas station, Lowman explained.

Another way Raleigh is combating the rising fuel prices is by downgrading in engine size for its cars and trucks. In this area, it is switching investigations and administration vehicles to smaller vehicles such as the Chevy Impala and Ford Taurus instead of the Ford CVPI. For the past two years, hybrid vehicles have been used in these departments, with 13 so far and even more throughout the city’s whole fleet. Also, the agency has been reducing its 4x4 vehicles by requiring the city manager’s approval.

San Francisco, CA Police

Sergeant Rich Lee, who is in Fleet Operations for the San Francisco Police, said the SFPD is currently evaluating a V-6 Chevrolet Impala Police vehicle instead of its usual V-8 Ford CVPI. “Of course, our bread and butter car must be a manufactured police vehicle capable of high speeds at times and capable of maneuvers unlike the general public,” Lee said.

The administration is also reviewing the “take-home” cars from staffers to reduce fuel consumptions. For the past three years, SFPD officials have been tracking take-homes in mileages and fuel to prevent any questions on abuse. In addition, they are slowly (when budget allows) purchasing replacement administrative vehicles with alternative fuel types, such as hybrids or CNGs. SFPD also started to embed solar panels inside lightbars to trickle charge the battery so the engine does not have to be on to replenish discharge use of the radio and computer.

Washington County, VA Sheriff’s Office

Major Blake Andis of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Abingdon, VA, said his agency is not reducing patrols or calls for service based on fuel prices. Instead, the officers are trying to answer some calls for service by handling them over the phone rather than driving to the complainant’s residence if that is acceptable to the complainants. “We have found living in a mountainous area that reducing the motor size of patrol vehicles is not as efficient as [using] the larger motors,” Andis said. To offset the high fuel costs, Washington County is taking money from other line items in the department.

West Virginia State Police

According to First Sergeant Rick Pursley, there are two significant steps the West Virginia State Police have taken in the wake of rising gas prices. First, they typically purchased exclusively Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptors. This year, they are buying several of the Chevrolet Impala police cruisers as well. At least half of the Impalas will go to administrative personnel, and the other half will be marked and assign as patrol vehicles.

The second step the West Virginia State Police have taken is to put some restrictions on their employees’ ability to do contract work (highway road construction sites, for example). They have implemented a program in which the officers must reimburse the agency for the fuel used traveling to and from the contract work site while utilizing their vehicles. Officers still patrol as much as before and respond to all calls for service.

Wyoming Highway Patrol

Because of the number of troopers covering a large geographical area, the Wyoming Highway Patrol has no mileage restrictions at this time. Captain Bill Morse said they need to provide the same quality of service the public expects and deserves, despite gas prices. Officers are still proactive in traffic enforcement, which has shown to reduce traffic crashes.

Their only idling restriction has been in place for many years: no idling while parked at the office with the exception of K-9 vehicles. Officers leave their vehicles idling while on all other calls to allow emergency lighting to be activated. In terms of personal miles restrictions, while the Wyoming Highway Patrol has take-home cars, officers have never been allowed to use them for personal use. They continue to respond to all calls for service as they have in the past.

Morse said his agency has asked for an increase in its fuel budget each year. However, it has not recalled any vehicles issued to staffers. All uniformed officers continue to have a take-home car.

As far as improving the preventative maintenance to get the best mileage, officer’s vehicles are serviced in house to ensure they are doing all they can to “stretch” their fuel. As far as downgrading in engine size for cars and trucks, no changes have been made due to the nature of their work (highway patrol), the speeds of violators they encounter, the distances their officers travel between calls, and the equipment they must carry. “We continue to spec our vehicles the same,” Morse said.

Agencies across the country are making unique changes and implementing new programs to offset today’s high gas prices. Curbing cruisers for 15 minutes every hour and walk the beat (Fairfield County, OH Sheriff); take-home car restrictions (Anne Arundel County, MD Sheriff); a 15% to 25% mileage reduction per month (Georgia State Patrol); increased used of hybrid vehicles for admin use (Houston, TX Police) are some gas price strategies.

Adding a $12 “fuel surcharge” to traffic citations (Holly Springs, GA); an increase in bicycle and golf cart patrols; a request not to use air conditioning; elimination of most take-home cars; elimination of personal miles on take-home cars are other counter-measures. However, all departments are attempting to cut back on gas use without compromising the public’s safety, which is still their utmost priority.

Jennifer Gavigan is the former associate editor of LAW and ORDER and Police Fleet Manager. She can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Aug 2008

Rating : 10.0

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