Police departments opt for SUVs as sedans are phased out
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – They have more room, they’re easier to get on and off, and they have four-wheel drive.
And they, like so many other departments across the country, are becoming the new face of Fort Wayne police.
A new shipment of 29 marked Ford Explorers was ordered for city police last month as the department continues to phase out Impala officers who once drove for new SUVs.
The main reason for the switch, comfort and space aside, is a necessity.
“They basically stopped making police cars,” Deputy Chief Martin Bender said.
Departments across the country have purchased sport utility vehicles following Dodge’s announcement that it plans to discontinue the Charger – a staple for many police departments – by 2024.
This was particularly the case in suburban or rural departments. The Decatur Police Department now primarily uses SUVs, and the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department has a number of SUVs and trucks in its fleet.
The Indiana State Police has trucks and SUVs in its fleet, but plans to soon mix Dodge Durangos or other sport utility vehicles with the department’s Chargers, according to a spokesperson, although the plans for this have yet to be finalized.
The Allen County Sheriff’s Department has a few trucks in its fleet but still relies on its loader fleet.
Fort Wayne officers drove Impalas for years, but Chevrolet no longer makes them for the police.
Explorers and Tahoes made for police use have heavier suspension as well as towing and pursuit capabilities, Bender said. Then there’s the extra room for the seemingly ever-increasing gear that officers now have to carry with them on a daily basis.
Gone are the days when agents only had a clipboard, a flashlight and maybe a coat – like Bender did when he started out in the 1970s. Now agents carry a shotgun with their on-board computer, the cage in the back, a radio and other bric-a-brac.
This does not even take into account officers who are members of specialized units.
“Someone from the SWAT team is carrying 600 pounds of gear with them,” Bender said. “Passenger cars just weren’t big enough anymore.”
Four-wheel drive helps in the winter months, Bender said, and no one complains about having extra room to move around or getting in and out more easily.
Bender, who manages the department’s fleet, said he chose mostly Explorers for marked vehicles because they cost about $3,000 to $6,000 less than Tahoes. The city purchased Tahoes, though none of them were marked and not all were able to sue, according to city records.
The last purchase of 29 marked Explorers cost about $975,000, and another order of 20 unmarked Explorers cost about $666,000, according to city records.
These vehicles cost more than the typical police sedan in the past, but Bender added that they find that SUVs last longer than patrol cars. The department uses an algorithm — taking into account the miles driven on a car, whether it’s been damaged or in an accident — to determine when to replace a vehicle.
The Impalas would last around 125,000 miles before needing to be replaced. Some SUVs purchased several years ago still drive between 130,000 and 140,000 miles, according to Bender.
“We get about one and a half times the serve from them,” Bender said.
The department has a marked van that is fully equipped to meet all police needs, as well as several unmarked trucks that are primarily used to transport supplies and equipment, especially for the anti-police squad. bombs, according to Bender.
“I try to keep our fleet as fresh as possible,” he said.
Yet there are still Impalas out there. Bender isn’t about to get rid of a vehicle until the department gets everything they can out of it, he said. So the Impalas still exist. Only they are now for certain officers of the force.
“If they’re beginners, they’re driving an Impala,” Bender said.