Archive for Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Basehor police cars live short, hard lives

January 15, 2014, 6:00 a.m.

Updated: 6:00 a.m.

Inside the 2008 Crown Victoria still on patrol in Basehor, a large tear in the driver's seat upholstery is going without repair.

That's because the car is one of three this year that will be replaced. The car, which has racked up more than 150,000 miles, has served about the average life span of a police car in Basehor -- five years.

From running idle for hours to accelerating from zero to 60 in seconds, the aging of the vehicles is a large expense, and one the city plans for.

Ford discontinued the classic police car in 2011 among demand for better fuel economy and performance. The city is saying goodbye to a 2007 and 2008 model along with a Ford Explorer this year as it replaces its squad over the next two years. In the Crown Victorias' place will be the 2014 model Ford Taurus police interceptors.

"The Crown Vic is just a classic police car, it's been that way for years," Police Chief Lloyd Martley said recently. "A lot of people were sad to see those things go."

By the end of 2015, the department will have 7 Ford Tauruses, two Ford Explorers and one Chevy Impala that was purchased several years ago. The city also had the option to buy the police model of the Chevy Impala and the Dodge Charger. While the Charger offers more room and all-wheel drive, Martley said the Taurus was more cost effective. The Impalas only came with front-wheel drive.

The new Ford Tauruses come with all-wheel drive, better in inclement weather than the old models' rear-wheel drive, and sport a smaller engine, V-6, than the sometimes inefficient V-8 of the Crown Victorias. But with some of the advantages also come disadvantages, such as less passenger room for both the officer and the detainee in the back seat.

The wear and tear of daily life as a police squad car means the older vehicles have to be phased out.

Basehor saves yearly to replace police vehicles about every five to seven years. In 2014, the city has a budget of more than $76,000 for replacement vehicles that it is using to buy the three new Tauruses, Martley said, at a cost of $23,000 apiece. The city purchases the vehicles from the state's police car contract seller, Shawnee Mission Ford.

"It's an expensive part of what we do, but it's a necessity of what we do," Martley said. "We've been allocating that money from the day we buy the cars so that when it's time to replace the vehicles, we don't have to burden any taxpayers."

Basehor's 2008 Crown Victoria set to be replaced this year has accumulated 151,000 miles. That number does not include idle hours, Martley said, where the vehicle runs idle during patrol and other police calls.

Martley said that every hour the car sits idle is the same as racking up 33 driven miles. That means, Marltey says, the 2008 Crown Victoria has the equivalent of 212,000 miles.

"Idle hours can be just as hard on a car as driving hours," Martley said.

During the average shift, Martley says a car drives between 80 and 100 miles. Sometimes the cars run two shifts per day.

"If one or two of my cars break down, then my only resource is to run a car on back-to-back shifts, which can cause problems," Martley said.

The Basehor Police Department goes to Heartland Tow, 2220 N. 145th Terrace, for routine maintenance and when one of its vehicles needs repair. Store manager Travis Wilson said the Crown Victorias his shop have worked on all have encountered similar problems when they reach the 100,000 mile mark.

"Everything takes its toll," Wilson said. "All the electronics on the car, the time it sits there idling, it takes its toll on the alternator and battery."

But that's not to say the department doesn't take care of the cars. Basehor police officers check each squad car's fluid levels daily and perform maintenance on the vehicles when required.

"We do everything we can to extend the life of the cars, but they get to the point where they get to be cost prohibitive," Martley said.

When Martley's office purchases its new cars, the sirens and electronics from the older vehicles are recycled if they are still serviceable. But the cars face a mysterious fate -- some are sold to cab companies and others are too worn out to serve anybody.

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