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The LASD Upfit

The LASD drives 64 million miles a year.

The LASD Upfit
By: Brad Brewer

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is the largest Sheriff’s Department in the world, with a budget of $2.4 billion. They employ nearly 18,000 sworn and professional staff. The LASD is the primary law enforcement agency for 42 incorporated cities, 130 unincorporated communities, 10 community colleges, and over 1 million daily commuters of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metrolink. The LASD serves over 4 million citizens.

As well as protecting 42 Superior Courts and 600 bench officers, the LASD manages one of the nation’s largest local jail systems with a housing capacity of nearly 20,000 prisoners. The LASD collectively drives 64 million miles in an average year.

LASD Fleet Management is responsible for preparing vehicle specifications and issuing bids for the purchase of new vehicles. LASD Fleet technicians install communication devices in the vehicles and ensure repairs are made for all the necessary emergency or other related equipment on vehicles and boats. This unit is also involved in testing police vehicles and is actively involved with the vehicle manufacturers in the development and evaluation of future police vehicles.

In the mid-1990s LASD put $20 million fleet services out to bid and then outsourced all the maintenance, upfitting and repairs. The current contract service provider is Penske Truck Leasing, which has been supplying these services for the past five years. Working on site at the LASD Fleet Management facility in East Los Angeles, Penske is responsible for everything from outfitting new vehicles, updating or repairing, as well as decommissioning retired vehicles.

Their repair and outfit facilities are spread out over 27 garage locations across the county contracted by Penske staff. The LASD has about 2,000 Ford CVPIs with 400 brand-new CVPIs in storage and another 100 in various stages of upfitting. LASD has new vehicles staged in various locations across the county. On average, the LASD replaces 500 vehicles a year.

LASD Fleet estimates $2,500 per black/white CVPI for annual maintenance costs. As the vehicle gets older, it is constantly being monitored and evaluated to ensure it is still cost effective to remain in service. Decommissioning mileage limits started out at 90,000 miles but now with fiscal restraint and decreased budgets, the LASD is now having some vehicles stay in service up to 110,000 miles. Vehicles that are removed from active service are stripped of all emergency equipment then either sold at auction, or cannibalized for repair parts then crushed and sold as scrap.

Recently, LASD Fleet has been looking at the possibility of selling off fully equipped vehicles to other countries who can’t afford the expense of a fully equipped patrol unit. They will remove radio, laptop and any LASD specific markings and then sell the vehicle as a fully operational police vehicle. Others have had good success at this, as it reduces the decommissioning labor costs and often brings in a higher resale value.

In the East L.A. garage facility Penske staff, working under the direction of LASD Fleet, has to manage two separate fleet programs at the same time. One is the decommissioning of older units and the recycling, sale, destruction, or refurbishing. At the same time Penske and LASD are decommissioning the old and upfitting the new vehicles, they are running a parallel retro/refresh program. After evaluating each vehicle for repairs, mileage and condition, (2005 and newer) vehicles in good shape that don’t have the latest equipment in them are selected for the retrofit program.

When the vehicle comes in for a retro fit, it is evaluated for where it goes first in the large LASD garage. Everything from body repairs, mechanical, even tires. A vehicle could go to the body shop, or if it needs mechanical work, mechanics look it over before getting new retrofit equipment. The vehicle is given a complete safety evaluation and all services are done to ensure everything is up to date.

This retrofit includes removing the older Mobile Digital Terminal (MDT) designed in 1985, and replacing it with a new custom Havis console and laptop docking station. LASD custom designs all their equipment with input from front line officers, Penske technicians, and the manufacturers’ themselves. This upgrade also includes each vehicle getting a new Panasonic CF-31 laptop complete with the latest software. Motorcycles receive the Panasonic CF19 device, which is carried in the saddlebag.

The core of the new system will be 2,600 Panasonic Toughbook CF-31s. The Toughbooks will change the way deputies get mission critical information. This means the LASD is upgrading each patrol car into a high-tech powerhouse with each unit having: 1) Blue Check, an infield fingerprint device that can verify or check a person’s identity; 2) direct Internet access to a library of resources; 3) report management system; 4) crime analysis and crime mapping; 5) mobile mapping with direct routing capability and the ability to coordinate multiple unit response.

This also includes GPS and Alanis Validar system. The Validar allows units to mark a location as the drive for future reference. For example, in a pursuit if a gun is tossed, deputies will mark the location by depressing a button on the console. Other units will see the “breadcrumb” and respond appropriately. The integrator for the massive project is Raytheon, a company that has demonstrated its technology ability in military and communication circles, but is relatively new to this area of public safety.

Mobile computing isn’t the only part of the retro program. The retro also adds a new prisoner cage because the new laptop and console requires extra mounting length. To do this, LASD modified its existing prisoner cage with a cutout to allow extra room and attach the newly designed vertically mounted AR15 and Remington 870 shotgun rack. 

As part of the retrofit program, Penske techs also copy the new vehicle upfitting program with each retro vehicle brought in, getting the LASD custom-designed electronics trunk tray. This unique trunk tray is completely modular and plug-and-play for immediate removal should a problem ever occur. Backup trays are in inventory and ready to go, which significantly minimizes vehicle downtime should electronic issues arise. Techs can swap out a trunk tray in approximately an hour and get the vehicle back in service, as opposed to old way where the vehicle sat out of service for the duration of the repair.

When brand-new vehicles are brought in to the shop, they first go to the outfitting shop where one Penske mechanic will build the car from the ground up. One vehicle will take approximately 16 hours for the retrofit upgrade and around 32 hours for the brand-new vehicle to be ready for the road.

Training a new technician takes about one month to get him/her up to speed so he/she can complete one entire vehicle upfit, start to finish. The idea of one tech – one vehicle, start to finish, is to allow the tech to take a sense of pride in his/her work, knowing that specific vehicle was built by him/her. While training, the new techs are under the guidance of a senior tech and all work is reviewed and signed off. LASD Fleet uses a 30-Step check sheet to ensure each new vehicle is tested and signed off before it’s released to a Station.

The 30-Step inspection covers everything from the FedSig light-controller slide switch functionality to the Secure Idle operation, shotgun lock function check, right through to ensuring there are no metal shavings left on the roof after the FedSig Arjent lightbar is installed. By signing off, both the Penske technician and the Penske Service Manager certify the equipment has been properly installed and the vehicle has been carefully inspected and is ready for deployment.

LASD estimates the new vehicle upfitting shop will be producing 50 new vehicles a month for deployment. They also hope to have 30 retrofit vehicles going out the door at the same time.

Once the vehicle is ready to go, Fleet Services has a list of vehicles that are due for replacement across the entire county. New vehicles can go out to a low-mileage station like West Hollywood and then after a year, the vehicle will likely have less 10,000 miles on it and then it can go out to a high-mileage station like Lancaster. Vehicles at Lancaster Station can accumulate almost 30,000 miles a year because some calls might require the officer to drive 25 miles to get on scene to a call, and 50 miles to reach the patrol area.

The LASD fleet isn’t just CVPI sedans. LASD uses hundreds of Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs, both 4X4 Tahoe SSV for Search & Rescue and RWD Tahoe PPV for Supervisors, K9 officers, and the LASD Special Enforcement Branch (SEB).

Having full fleet of over 100 motorcycles both marked and unmarked adds to the complexity of this diverse fleet, as do several tractor-trailers used for command vehicles and the transportation of parts and assets. The prisoner transport fleet is made up of 100 buses, over a hundred passenger vans both marked and unmarked, and pickup trucks. Not to mention ATVs for beach deployments, miscellaneous trucks and trailers, covert vehicles, marked watercraft for marine deployment, and aircraft. The LASD vehicle fleet comes in just under 6,700 pieces of equipment, which is one of the largest fleets in North America.

LASD Fleet is also involved in the testing of new vehicles. Fleet has a unique relationship with LASD Emergency Vehicle Operations Center (EVOC). The Pomona EVOC training facility has a dedicated garage and technician that maintains the training fleet of vehicles assigned to EVOC. The EVOC program is one of the best in North America and the EVOC Instructors demand an extremely high standard of vehicle maintenance while pushing these vehicles to their limits. 

The Pomona garage facility is not dedicated solely to EVOC. Outside units have their vehicles serviced/repaired at the garage as well as all the EVOC vehicles. LASD Fleet works closely with EVOC in assisting the vehicle manufacturers during their vehicle developmental process. Manufacturers bring developmental prototype vehicles to the LASD tracks to improve or refine various components on the vehicle. LASD EVOC drivers test drive and provide feedback to the manufacturers.

The final LASD report is available on their website for download and review. LASD Car Test and the Michigan State Police Vehicle tests are the standard by which most agencies build their purchase specifications around when going out to bid.

Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 22-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He sits on the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2013

Rating : 9.7

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