The City of Duluth was incorporated as a city in 1876 and has a population of 27,000 in 9.8 square miles. The DPD started its police fleet management section in 1997 with a sworn position. The chief of police is Randy Belcher, and the author is the fleet manager. Duluth Police Fleet
has a total annual budget of $676,000. The Duluth police budgeted $322,000 for new vehicles in FY08, of which $36,000 is used for new vehicle equipment. The police department has 66 police units and 10 trailers. The uniform division has 42 marked units on the road with two units in reserve. Administration and CID have 14 unmarked units from sedans to trucks and SUVs.
The police department has a wide range of support units, starting with the command center. In 2003, the police department received a federal grant to purchase a command center for natural and manmade disasters. The command center was built by LDV Inc. in Burlington, WI and was delivered in February 2004. The police department also has a Dodge Sprinter, which is used for a paddy wagon.
Ten trailers support the command center team, COPS units and uniform divisions. A radar trailer, cargo trailer, horse trailer and motorcycle trailer are for the uniform division. The COPS unit has a rollover simulator, GE driving simulator and cargo trailer to support statewide driving education to high school students. The command center team has a 31-foot Jayco travel trailer and a 21-foot cargo trailer. The department’s motor unit operates the Honda ST1300P and has three units with special operations. In the past, the department has ridden Buell, Harley and BMW but prefers the Hondas.
The department's marked units consist of Chevrolet Impalas, Dodge Chargers and Dodge Intrepids. Chevrolet makes of 70% of our fleet, and Dodge takes 30% of the fleet.
All sworn officers within the department are issued a vehicle, and they are responsible for the daily maintenance of the unit. Each year, officers average 15,000 miles on their units. The department’s take home policy allows officers who live inside the city limits to drive their units home. Officers with CID and administration may also take their units home regardless if they live inside the city; all other units are left at the police department.
The department replacement policy is based on five years of service or 100,000 miles, whichever is first. This policy is only a guideline, and some units that may be older with a lower maintenance history and low mileage may be retained or transferred to another city department. The fleet manager determines this. All department vehicles are sold at public auction per state law.
The police department has contracted with Manheim auto auctions to dispose of vehicles. The contract also includes vehicles that are seized by the department through the courts and any other equipment such as trailers and motorcycles. All funds from the sale of department units are returned to the city and placed in the general funds. To enhance the value of vehicles, Manheim removes all markings and details all vehicles before the sale.
When the department started the fleet section, several software systems were looked at to determine which would be the best fit for the agency. The department purchased KJON
software (www.kjon.com) for its low price and the features it offered. In 2008, the department plans to upgrade with a new version of the KJON software.
The police department uses OE tires on all of its police units. Tires other than OE are used on trucks within the department. The department also uses OE brake pads and OE rotors that are installed at the dealership. Aftermarket pads and rotors have been used in the past, but officers preferred the OE equipment.
The officer assigned to the unit handles oil service. Express Oil was contracted to perform oil service on any police unit, and the department is billed at the end of each month. Officers who operate the Chevrolet Impalas follow the oil life monitoring system on the unit. The remainder of officers follows the three-month or 3,000-mile rule.
Oil change intervals and brake inspection are checked each shift by the officer and supervisor before the shift. Officers also receive 40 hours of block training, which is held four times a year. During this week of training, one hour is set aside for vehicle maintenance, which can cover brake issues, how to check all fluids and where to find them on the vehicle. Officers can also stop at the fleet maintenance building to have limited service done on site such as wipers, bulbs, fluids, batteries and air filters or a tire change.
The fleet maintenance building also repairs any emergency equipment issue, i.e., camera system, lightbar, siren and replaces used equipment such as fire extinguishers and stop sticks. General repairs on department units are sent to the local dealership or other approved shops. The police department does not have a maintenance tech on staff. Due to our smaller size, the fleet manager does it all with occasional help of two other officers with automotive backgrounds.
When the fleet department was started in 1997, the city had agreed to start on a three-year program to purchase police cars for each officer. During that time, in order to keep costs down, the department started to do its own upfitting. By 2000, the department had purchased its first 40 units, which were all upfitted at the department.
Since then, the department has upfitted almost 100 vehicles to include other city departments. Over the past two years, the current high volume of vehicle purchases and the demands on the fleet department vehicles have been sent out to professional upfitters within the area. Our current upfitters have a profile on how the department outfits its units to keep the fleet uniform.
Battery issues have not been a real problem with our units. If the vehicle is properly wired at the beginning, battery drain is not an issue. It is just a matter of not overloading the vehicle with too much equipment, even though all cops like a lot of red and blue lights! In some of our current units, we have lights, camera systems, computers, modems, radios, loJack, siren / light controls and other smaller items, and we have no problems with battery drain. It’s all in the wiring.
All uniform division vehicles use vehicle partitions with the paddy wagon in support for larger transport needs. All Duluth police units carry a standard trunk tray with the camera system and fire extinguisher mounted. Extra items issued to each unit are 10 12-inch orange road cones, first-aid kits, stop sticks and officers’ personal equipment. The total weight of the equipment is kept in the area of 200 pounds.
In the future, the department’s biggest challenge is likely to be fuel costs. Over the past three years, the city has seen its fuel costs more than triple. With the large market fluctuation, it is difficult to place an accurate budget on yearly fuel costs.
The best savings idea the police department had was to start the full-time fleet manager to oversee the daily operations of department vehicles. This move gave more accountability and ability for the department to make real changes to save money.
The Duluth police department supports Operation One Voice, a nonprofit organization that supports military special operations. Each year, the fleet department provides vehicles and staff to escort military and law enforcement runners the 650 miles from Duluth, GA to Tampa, FL. Police units escort runners 24 hours a day until the arrival at MacDill Air Force base, home of Special Operations Command. In 2007, Operation One Voice raised more than $150,000 for military troops and their families. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.