This police vehicle a sizable upgradeArea News
-- Two decades of Crown Vic squad cars came to an end last year when Ford discontinued that long-used, well-established model.
By: Phil Pfuehler , Pierce County Herald
Two decades of Crown Vic squad cars came to an end last year when Ford discontinued that long-used, well-established model.
Enter the next generation of squad sedans and SUVs, also made by Ford. The River Falls Police Department just added the Ford SUV Interceptor to its fleet of 10 marked and unmarked vehicles.
After having all the equipment installed, the SUV squad hit the streets last week Wednesday.
Police Sgt. Matt Kennett gave it a thumbs up.
“It’s an impressive vehicle,” Kennett said. “The biggest improvement is that we sit higher and this gives us a greater range of visibility -- you can see better over other passenger cars down the road to check traffic patterns and look for hazards.”
Police Chief Roger Leque said visibility was just one reason to try the SUV option.
Expanded interior space was another -- for the officer or officers in front, for “customers” placed in the back seat, and for all the gear officers now use, from an upright laptop computer and keyboard, emergency medical and traffic equipment, weapons, cameras, road flares, traffic cones and more.
The new SUV police squad cost $29,360. Extra costs were added later for equipment installation.
The last Crown Victoria patrol vehicle purchases were made in 2011 from Hudson Ford-Mercury. The price was $23,698 per vehicle.
Unlike the rear-wheel driven Crown Vics, the new SUV Interceptor has all-wheel drive. Leque said the change should be another plus.
“We expect this will create better handling and responsiveness, especially during winter road conditions,” he said.
The new SUV has a six-cylinder engine while the Crown Vics were V-8s. Leque said accelerations needed for pursuits should be just as effective for the smaller-engine SUV Interceptor.
Gas mileage for the police SUV should improve.
After several hundred miles of cold-weather, city driving, Kennett said the SUV was getting 17.7 miles per gallon. The Crown Vic squad cars, he said, typically only average 9-12 mpg.
The SUV becomes the fifth police marked vehicle. Four others are unmarked and the one the SUV has replaced will be used as a marked backup.
Leque said marked vehicles are typically “transitioned” to unmarked status after 80,000-90,000 miles of patrolling city streets.
The RFPD will buy another vehicle sometime in 2013. Leque said officers will review the SUV Interceptor’s performance before deciding whether to buy a second one.
“This winter will give us a good opportunity to do that evaluation,” he said.
Traffic light controls
The SUV Interceptor and the other four marked squad cars also just had Opticom emitters installed.
Leque said much of the Opticom purchase price was covered by a recent drug sting with the U.S. Postal Service that resulted in a federally sanctioned money forfeiture.
Opticom is a traffic-control system that provides a green light and, therefore, intersection right-of-way to emergency vehicles.
Kennett said that with the press of a button, officers in their marked vehicles can transmit an infrared pulse that tells an approaching traffic light’s sensor to switch to green.
On the new SUV, that pulse is sent from the light bar on the hood; in the older squad cars, the pulse is sent from the front grill.
Shortly after passing the traffic light, the normal red, yellow and green signaling functions come back.
“Using Opticom gives us an extra layer of protection -- for officers, other drivers and pedestrians,” Kennett said. “This doesn’t mean we’ll go flying through intersections because of Opticom. We will still slow down as always.”
The Opticom pulse won’t abruptly change an intersection lights, Kennett said. There will be a few seconds before the switch is made so traffic can prepare and get over as emergency vehicles approach.
The Opticom also activates a flashing white light that turns into a steady circular light on the traffic light’s crossbeam at an intersection. The white light warns that emergency vehicles are approaching and informs drivers that the intersection is under emergency control.
River Falls ambulances and fire engines already use Opticom to control traffic lights.
Kennett said controlling those lights makes it easier and safer for officers to reach an emergency, such as a crash or fire.
He pointed out that some intersections, such as at North Main and Division streets, lack clear sight lines and crossing against a red light is risky for officers and other drivers.
Once the Opticom is activated, it emits a pulse at each intersection with a traffic light sensor.
Kennett reminded drivers to pull to the side for emergency vehicles and to use great caution when turning left at an intersection -- across lanes of traffic -- when emergency vehicles are on the way.