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Purchase expected to provide agency with a modern and more reliable collection of police service vehicles

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Prineville Police Department is in the process of adding six vehicles to its fleet.

The Prineville Police Department is hoping the purchase of a half-dozen new patrol vehicles will finally provide them with a reliable and modern fleet.

The department recently received approval from the Prineville City Council to purchase five Ford Police Interceptor SUVs and an F150 SSV pickup, all of which will be outfitted with the necessary equipment upgrades needed for police work.

For Sgt. James Peterson, who is charged with managing the fleet, the new vehicles will be a welcomed and much-needed addition. He points out that the current collection of vehicles the department uses include some 2009 and 2005 models. The police captain drives a 2005 vehicle, and the chief is using a 2003 Chevy Tahoe.

In recent years, the agency has tried to squeeze as much use out of the vehicles available as possible, but this has resulted in some growing maintenance costs.

"As the fleet ages, what we try to do is move vehicles around on our team based on their mileage usage and keep the mileage as consistent as possible, so they age out fairly consistently," Peterson said. "There is a point in which these vehicles require too much maintenance. You are basically just paying to keep them running."

Compounding the issue, not all of the vehicles were optimal to begin with. Peterson points out that some older vehicles in the fleet were standard civilian models retrofitted for police service, which resulted in numerous issues and maintenance costs.

Peterson says that vehicles designed for police work feature heavy duty brakes and a heavy duty electrical system first and foremost. He notes that police vehicles face a lot more stops and starts that require better braking, and the numerous electrical items added to a law enforcement rig overtax a typical vehicle.

"You have the computer, you have the lights, the siren, the radios — all of these different things cannot be supported by a standard electrical system in a civilian car," he said. "You have to have upgraded alternators and heavy duty wiring harnesses."

Some vehicles also feature an upgraded transmission to account for the extra shifting that's necessary for police work.

In addition to keeping mileage down and accounting for extra equipment and performance needs, Peterson said that the way police vehicles are driven creates a need to replace them more often than a typical civilian one.

"If a police car makes it to 100,000 miles, you would have a very tired car that is on the verge of failure," he said. "The average lifespan of a cop car is short compared to an average car because they will sit, they will get started, get driven fairly hard and fast and then shut off."

He added oftentimes patrol vehicles will sit and idle for a half-hour or so, then get shut off.

"That scenario runs over and over again," he said.

The police department has managed to replace some of its fleet in the past few years. Peterson notes that the agency bought three 2013 rigs and five 2014 models — all of them designed for police work. However, this purchase and subsequent future ones will be necessary to keep the fleet in good shape.

"Even our newer cars are now four years old," he said. "Some of them have 40,000 to 60,000 miles."

The Prineville City Council approved the purchase of the six new vehicles late last month. The rigs cost a total of $190,548, but they will need equipment added that costs another approximately $220,000 overall.

"We have to get them all outfitted with their radios, lights, sirens, toolboxes and all of that, which takes several months," Peterson said, adding that the new rigs should be ready for use around June.

"This (purchase) will do away with a lot of the rigs that have been retrofitted," he said, "and give us a full modern fleet."

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