City commits $1.6 million for new police fleet; the Ford Interceptor

ST. GEORGE — Public safety comes at a price.

For $1.6 million, the City of St. George Police Department phased out its aging fleet of police cruisers to take advantage of a municipal lease program that delivered 35 Ford Interceptors designed specifically for law enforcement.

The new SUV-style patrol units, with unique equipment that focuses on safety and dependability, are already on the streets of St. George. The new patrol vehicles are exclusive in many respects, built under specific qualifications and specifications not available to the general public.

Ford Crown Victorias that were stripped down and ready for auction, St. George Fleet Services Division, St. George, Utah, April 28, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
Ford Crown Victorias that were stripped down and ready for auction, St. George Fleet Services Division, St. George, Utah, April 28, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“Over 60 percent of the components and equipment are unique to this vehicle and cannot be transferred to any other Ford model,” St. George Fleet Manager Courtney Stephens said.

The fleet acquisition was approved in November 2015, which allowed the department to order the cars while the city reviewed funding options. The last batch of six vehicles was delivered at the end of March and they are all now upfitted and out on patrol.

The Interceptor

Several considerations were taken into account before choosing the Ford Interceptor model, the first of which was safety, with dependability coming in at a close second.

The Interceptor is all-wheel drive, enabling the officer to respond to emergency calls out in the desert, during storms, in snow or in off-road conditions. It also has a heavy duty front suspension, subframe, braking and cooling system.

“Ford took a practical car and put in high performance suspension, brakes and engine for law enforcement,” St. George Police Sgt. Spencer Holmes said.

Also significant are the additions of side and canopy airbags that protect in a rollover, a 100,000-mile power train warranty, and a purpose-built interior that adds to the design with seat modifications for gun belts and other equipment.  A higher clearance also makes it easier and safer to place a person in the rear of the vehicle.

Ford Interceptor on a traffic stop on River Road, St. George, Utah, April 27, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
Ford Interceptor on a traffic stop on River Road, St. George, Utah, April 27, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“These SUVs are more practical, but the most important thing to me is officer safety,” Holmes said.

The open style of the SUV fits the needs of officers better compared to the older model cruisers with a trunk. The rear cargo area, with a rear door that opens wider, provides more room for equipment, allowing officers to remove their gear quickly when needed.

“It really helps the officer to do their job,” Holmes said.

Out with the old, in with the new

Prior to the fleet purchase, the city’s aging line of cruisers was edging closer to retirement and auction, with ever-increasing maintenance and repair costs, St. George Police Chief Marlon Stratton said, adding it got to the point that some of those vehicles were breaking down during an officer’s shift.

“The department cannot afford to have patrol cars breaking down during an emergency call,” the police chief said. “That’s never a good scenario for the officer or the public – particularly when rapid response time can mean the difference between life and death.”

Bringing this fleet to St. George was no easy task and that is where the St. George City Fleet Manager Stephens comes in.

After discussing the aging fleet and safety concerns with Stratton, Stephens began researching alternative makes and models to replace the vehicles, in addition to completing a cost evaluation. Those findings showed the Interceptor rated very high in functionality, while providing substantial savings through the vehicle’s low operating cost, Stephens said.

Even with substantial savings and low operating costs, the department still needed 35 vehicles.

“Purchasing 35 Interceptors would have cost the department $1.2 million, in addition to another $400,000 in upfits,” Stephens said. “That’s over $1.5 million dollars right there, all at once.”

Over 1,000 feet of wiring goes into every Ford Interceptor as it is upfitted, St. George Fleet Services Division, St. George, Utah, April 27, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
Over 1,000 feet of wiring goes into every Ford Interceptor as it is upfitted, St. George Fleet Services Division, St. George, Utah, April 27, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Stephens set out to analyze various funding options. After extensive research and consulting with other police departments in Utah, as well as in other states, he said, it was concluded that fleet acquisition through leasing provided greater long-term savings with a lower startup cost.

Stephens then worked with Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager and manager of support services, who helped formulate the proposal. It was presented to the city for approval in November 2015.

How the leasing program works

The fleet was then acquired using a municipal lease program, which is a closed-end lease, after the city approved it. That lease allowed the total cost of $1.6 million to be broken down into payments scheduled over a 48-month period, which had less of an impact on the budget. 

It was also cost-effective, Stephens said.

The older models had excessive mileage, well over 100,000 miles each, and were incurring significant repair and maintenance costs. By replacing those cruisers with new vehicles leased at a lower interest rate, Stephens said, the savings alone was greater than the interest paid through the lease.

Municipal leasing differs from conventional leasing on several points including use of extremely low interest rates, the ability to pay for the fleet over time and the ability to procure a large number of vehicles without straining the budget by paying the entire amount up front.

Then at the end of the 48-month lease, the department has the option of purchasing the cars for $1 each.

“Municipal leasing can even provide an economically self-sustaining model for replacing vehicles going forward,” Stephens said.

Ford Interceptor after modifications and signage, Red Hills Parkway, St. George, Utah, April 28, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
Ford Interceptor after modifications and signage, Red Hills Parkway, St. George, Utah, April 28, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Police vehicles are good candidates for municipal leases.  Many police departments keep their patrol cars longer and once they are sold at an auction they generally bring a lower return, making the $1 lease buyout option affordable.  

St. George is not alone in choosing the lease option over purchasing or financing. Departments all over the country are opting in on fleet leasing, a trend that began over a decade ago. 

Fleet services

The Ford Interceptors began arriving in batches of six at a time in December 2015. They arrived at the St. George Fleet Services Division where they were then stripped down to the shell and built back up with equipment, lasers, lighting, scanners, radar and other electronics and equipment unique to the St. George Police Department.

A Ford “upfit kit” is also installed, which includes specialized electrical components, speakers, LED lighting, steering wheel configuration switches and numerous other components that are sold as a separate kit.

“By completing the installations at the Fleet Services Division,” Stephens said, “it saved a significant amount of money for the city.”

Twenty-two hours later, with the “St. George Police” logo securely in place, the new Interceptor is ready for patrol.

St. George operates the fourth largest fleet in the state, maintained by its Fleet Services Division. This facility employs 11 mechanics, who repair and maintain 967 pieces of equipment and are qualified to repair over 100 different vehicle types, all while operating their own internal parts store.

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Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  • .... May 2, 2016 at 6:33 am

    Sounds good to me.

    • RealMcCoy May 3, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      You like the idea that you can go to auction and buy the same Crown Victoria police cruiser that has hauled you to Purgatory time and time again?
      Whatever makes you ‘LOL’, dotboy…

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