A kind of "changing of the guard" has started for police patrol cars in New Canaan and other police departments as the popular Ford Crown Victoria model is no longer produced and departments buy the different models that replaced it.
For New Canaan, the replacement model is the Chrysler Dodge Charger, specifically the "Pursuit" type adjusted for law enforcement agencies.
New Canaan police recently bought two, and they're expected to be on patrol in about two months, said Capt. David Bender, who oversees vehicle purchases and other administrative services at the department.
They can be expected to be on the road for three or four years, until the mileage gets up to around 70,000. "History has shown that after 70,000 miles, it's not cost-efficient any more," he said.
With budgets tight during the recent recession, the department does still have a few cars on the road with higher mileage, perhaps closer to 80,000 miles, he said, but a regular replacement schedule is being drawn up for approval by town officials. The department has a total of 10 marked and four unmarked cars.
Naked, behind the police station
The two new black-and-whites, now parked behind the department headquarters, are just that for now: black and white. Department decals, sirens, lights and other equipment all need to be installed in them before they can hit the roads.
A specialized console holds the police electronic equipment, and a "ruggedized" laptop computer (called an MDT, or Mobile Data Terminal) goes into each vehicle, allowing an officer in the car to look up criminal records and other data directly from the National Crime Information Center.
The on-board computers also allow officers to write reports and even print out tickets while sending the ticket report directly to the state.
Patrol car back seats are turned into a protective "cell" with the installation of a plexiglas wall betweent he front and back. Plexiglas has replaced a metal grill that used to be installed in the squad cars.
New Canaan patrol cars have neither video cameras nor license plate readers that some other departments have installed on their vehicles, Bender said. "We tried video cameras twice and were not able to find one that met our needs," he said.
A small part of the equipment is recycled from the old cars, particularly the radios and weapons racks, Bender said.
The old patrol cars, minus their police equipment and with police markings removed, are themselves recycled by becoming part of the town's general fleet of vehicles.
The front seats on old squad cars can often get depressions in them from police sitting in them for such long periods of time, he said.
As a way of keeping prices down, police departments in Connecticut have collectively arranged with car manufacturers on a set price for three 2012 patrol cars: The Chrysler Dodge Charger Pursuit vehicle, the Ford Interceptor (built on the same frame as a Taurus, although "Interceptor" has also been used for the popular Crown Victoria patrol cars no longer being manufactured) and the Chevrolet Impala.
The two new Chargers cost the department $26,157.80, each, Bender said. "We're getting the absolute best price for that car, based on the group rate for the state," he said.
(The cost of buying and installing police equipment in the vehicle is about the same as the price of the car itself. The department will spend $20,970 on the factory-installed equipment, along with $5,800 to pay for the installation, Bender said.)
The decision to buy the Chargers wasn't mostly about the purchase price, however, he indicated.
The Charger has been used by police departments for about six years now, while the other two models are still in their first year as police vehicles, he said. Chrysler has had the opportunity to get feedback from police in tweaking the design of the cars over the years, which makes New Canaan police officials more comfortable with buying it.
"We test drive all the vehicles, and we felt that it performed at least as well as the Chevy or Ford, if not better," he said.
Every police department will also have its individual reasons for preferring one model over another, Bender said. In New Canaan, for instance, "We have some very tall officers in the department, and with all the equipment that goes in, it gets cramped. The Charger was the only one that had enough room for all of our officers."
- Back in August, Car & Driver had some fun with the Dodge Charger Pursuit model, and, of course, described some of the specs.
- The Daily Herald of Arlington, IL, described local reaction when their county sheriff's department started using the same model.
- Last year, Norwalk police bought a larger-than-normal supply of the old Crown Vics.