Police Department embraces life after Crown Vic

Police Department embraces life after Crown Vic

Michele Ellson
Ford Police Interceptor. From the Ford website.

Officers in the Alameda Police Department have driven Ford Crown Victorias “pretty much since they came out with them” in 1992, Captain Dave Boersma said, their powerful rear-wheel drive and ample size making the Crown Vic the department’s go-to car.

“They were kind of just a good workhorse,” Boersma said of the police vehicles.

But Ford’s announcement last year that they planned to discontinue the Crown Victoria after the sedan’s two-decade ride sent police officials in Alameda and in dozens of other cities across the country scrambling to find a new car with which to restock their fleets.

After testing different models, Alameda Police Department leaders have opted to purchase 10 of Ford’s new Police Interceptors – six sedans and four sport utility vehicles – at a cost of $302,000, a request the City Council signed off on Tuesday night. The money for the cars had already been allotted in the city’s budget after the vehicles had been identified for replacement.

In addition to the cars, the department will be buying a Ballistic Armored Tactical Transport response vehicle, which will replace an armored 1987 GMC the department bought used in 1998 and put to pasture when its engine froze last year. The new vehicle, which will cost about $174,000, is built on a Ford F-550 Super Duty commercial chassis, can carry up to a dozen geared officers and can travel up to 80 miles per hour; the vehicle can also stop .50-caliber rounds.

Police officials said they would use the vehicle to respond to high-risk calls and those involving gunfire.

“The Police Department needs to be able to respond safely to an armed/barricaded subject, hostage incident, or active shooter scenario, without having to wait for the proper equipment,” department officials wrote in a report to the council.

The market for police vehicles has opened up over the last several years, with a handful of other carmakers offering models specifically for police use. While some departments reportedly stockpiled Crown Vics before the last one had been sold, others considered police vehicles offered by Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet and Carbon Motors.

Alameda police strayed from their Crown Vics briefly a few years ago, when they bought a half-dozen Dodge Chargers (before moving to Crown Victorias, the department’s fleet consisted of Dodge Diplomats). But they quickly regretted the decision.

“Mechanically they were in the shop a whole lot more than the Fords,” said Boersma, who said the mechanics at the city’s garage preferred the Crown Vic.

After test driving the new Chargers, Chevrolet’s Caprice PPV and Impala police vehicles and the new Ford models, the Fords were the “clear leader,” the department’s report to the council says. The six Eco-Sedans they’ll be buying will be used as staff cars and for patrol and investigations while four Police Interceptor Utility vehicles will be used by staff, patrol supervisors and the department’s school resource officer.

Boersma said the new Fords, which are built on the automaker’s existing Taurus and Explorer chassis, have smaller engines than the Crown Vics but offer better performance, handling and gas mileage. The vehicles offer special features for police departments – including doors that open wider than those on a traditional vehicle, extra space for aftermarket gear and seats designed to hold handcuffed prisoners.

“We bought Crown Vics up until the end, and there’s probably still some available out there,” he said. “We’re pretty impressed with the new Police Interceptors.”

In other City Council news, the council on Tuesday approved a plan that will permit the owner of a 1.29-acre parcel nestled between the Fernside neighborhood and Tilden Way to sell it for custom development of 11 single-family homes. The council voted to remove a proposed condition from the Mapes Ranch approval that would allow the city to retain a right-of-way for future pedestrian access after neighbors complained that it could increase crime in the neighborhood.

Residents of the neighborhood described it as a target for criminals until a gate that allowed easy access from the Fruitvale Bridge was locked in the 1990s. And they said they feared crime would grow if that pedestrian access were offered again.

“If you approve condition nine, my life will be hell again,” resident Bill Garvine said, referring to the condition of approval that would have required the property for future access be given to the city. “Without the gate, our neighborhood was just easy prey for criminals who were almost impossible to catch.”

Mayor Marie Gilmore cast the deciding vote to eliminate the condition, saying that she wanted to vote against it but that she sympathized with neighbors’ concerns. Vice Mayor Rob Bonta and Councilwoman Lena Tam abstained.

The council also signed off on the purchase of a fire boat, which could cost up to $500,000. Three-quarters of the money for the boat will come from a federal port security grant.


Donna Eyestone's picture
Submitted by Donna Eyestone on Wed, Oct 3, 2012

Because a Ballistic Armored tank in Alameda says "community policing" and "green city" all over it. Ugh.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Oct 3, 2012

This is from Jon Spangler, who is experiencing some technical difficulties:

Community policing is a cornerstone of current APD policy. But law enforcement agencies cannot solve every problem they face with a community policing approach.

The armored vehicle is a necessary evil in an era of criminals who are better-armed than law enforcement officers. The BATT is NOT as heavily armored as it might be and is a necessary replacement for the out-of-service 1998 GMC that died last year.

It may not appear to be an investment in community policing at first glance, but if it saves lives by being part of an emergency response it is worth it. (We have few enough police officers in Alameda as it is. The BATT extends their capabilities in the case of an armed conflict, something I know every APD officer strives to avoid through community policing.