Managing a Police Fleet

How to Deal With the Privileges of Rank

May 16, 2017

by Paul Clinton - Also by this author

Photo of Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine in 2013 via Adam Fagen/Flickr.
Photo of Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine in 2013 via Adam Fagen/Flickr.

Rank, as they say in law enforcement and the military, brings its privileges. In the military, higher ranking officers can ride in chauffeured cars or drive themselves in higher-trim sedans and SUVs.

In law enforcement, police chiefs, sheriffs, and other top brass have been known to request higher trim grades and other vehicle upgrades. Their rise up the police hierarchy has brought other advantages with increased pension contributions, higher pay, more flexible schedules, and more choice about their assignments, so why shouldn't they drive a higher-trim vehicle?

While this may make sense in their own internal logic, it can present challenges to the public fleet manager who must deal with these requests, as well as repurpose the vehicle after the chief switches into a new vehicle.

Reassigning a higher-trim vehicle to undercover patrol can be problematic. Higher trim grades call more attention to the vehicle, as do upgraded features such as upgraded hubcaps and wheels or other premium features. The fleet manager must also properly equip the vehicle with radio equipment and a portable data terminal, which can be more challenging when the vehicle has a center console or carpeting, for example.

Several fleet managers who spoke with Government Fleet said they're moving away from meeting these demands by setting policies that discourage the upgrades. A vehicle classified as an exempt rank vehicle would be more effectively reassigned if it's properly spec'ed from the beginning. That way, when it trickles down to unmarked patrol, it will be the same as the other unmarked units that were purpose-built for that use.

This initiative can be a challenging one for a public fleet manager who encounters an entitled member of the law enforcement command staff, but clear communication and a written policy will carry the day. Developing the policy shows that no one is being singled out, which should help ease acceptance of the initiative.

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Paul Clinton

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Paul is the senior web editor for Automotive Fleet, Fleet Financials, Government Fleet, Green Fleet, Vehicle Remarketing, and Work Truck. He has covered police vehicles for Police Magazine.

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