New uniforms, new patches and now the third installment of Seattle police’s latest image change is hitting the streets. The department showed off its new Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicle Monday.
New uniforms, new patches and now the third element of the Seattle police makeover is hitting the streets — a new ride.
Police are joining leagues of suburban soccer moms and outdoor enthusiasts who have traded in sedans for crossover-style vehicles.
On Monday, the department debuted its new Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicle, a cross between a Taurus sedan and an Explorer SUV. While the patrol division has been using the Police Interceptor for months, the department said the vehicle debuted Monday features the new logo.
Sam Houghtaling, fleet operations manager for the city of Seattle, said about 90 of the all-wheel- drive vehicles have been added to the patrol division. An additional 30 are getting outfitted with radios and other communications equipment and are expected to hit the streets soon, he added.
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Each vehicle costs the city $47,500, a figure that includes all of the specialty equipment and electronics, Houghtaling said.
Houghtaling said the V-6-equipped vehicles shouldn’t be confused with an SUV.
“Essentially it’s a crossover; it’s on the same identical chassis as the sedan,” he said.
For 20 years, Ford‘s venerable Crown Victoria has been the mainstay of the patrol division. While a handful of Toyota Priuses and SUVs are used by specialty divisions, the familiar Crown Vic was the SPD’s car of choice.
But in 2011, when Ford announced it was retiring the sedan, Seattle’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which manages the city’s fleet, began searching for an alternative. Factors like cost, comfort, accommodations for communications equipment, storage, gas mileage and safety were evaluated, according to the Police Department
While Houghtaling has heard some grumblings from officers about the size of the new patrol vehicle — it’s shorter than the Crown Vics — Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Ron Smith said he hasn’t heard any complaints.
Smith said the Police Interceptor has more room for in-car computers and other electronics.
Houghtaling said the driver’s seat offers better back support and has a cutout in the back cushion to accommodate gun belts. The back-seat doors swing open widely, offering better access for prisoners.
The department considered replacing the fleet by test-drivingChevrolet Tahoes and various Ford and Chevrolet sedans. A study was conducted by the City of Seattle evaluating potential Crown Vic replacements.
Officers test-driving the vehicles also filled out a 14-page questionnaire before Mayor Ed Murray ordered 120 Interceptors in February 2014.
As the 135 Crown Victoria sedans still in use wear out, the city will replace them with the Police Interceptors, Houghtaling said.
The new vehicle offers better mileage than the Crown Victoria, though both are hardly stingy with gas because of constant idling. The new Ford Interceptors averaged 8.4 miles per gallon during one test period, compared with 6.7 mpg for the Crown Vics.
Maintenance costs per mile were also cheaper, 23 cents compared with 40 cents for the Crown Vics.
Switching the patrol fleet to electric vehicles is not a possibility because officers need horsepower, Houghtaling added.
“We’re always looking for the newest technologies, but there’s no electric vehicle that’s pursuit-rated,” he said.
Houghtaling said the 90 Ford Interceptors already on the streets are an array of 2014 and 2015 models.
Late last year, Seattle police announced they were ditching their two-tone blue uniforms and replacing them with solid navy-blue slacks and shirts. The uniforms feature a new shoulder patch, which includes the freshly designed logo depicting Chief Sealth and the words “service,” “pride” and ”dedication.”’
The Ford Police Interceptor Utility has gained popularity across the nation, said Tracy Warren, assistant fleet manager for the Washington State Patrol.
Warren said he attended a meeting with officials from Ford last week who claimed their Interceptor is beating competitors by Dodge and Chevrolet.
Also forced to replace their line Crown Vic sedans, the State Patrol decided on the Ford Interceptor. Since 2013, the State Patrol has added 316 of the vehicles to their fleet, Warren said.
“So far the benefit is it’s a little less expensive to operate. The tires and brake pads last longer,” said Warren. “We expect it will be better in adverse conditions to allow troopers to not spend time chaining up in the snow or get to places they (otherwise) couldn’t.”
Information in this article, originally published Aug. 10, 2015, was corrected Aug. 13, 2015. The Department of Justice, in its consent decree to address excessive-force findings at the Seattle Police Department, did not require SPD’s new fleet of crossover-style vehicles to have back-seat doors that swing open widely. The City of Seattle provided incorrect information.