The City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is re-evaluating its decision to go with the Chevrolet Caprice PPV as its primary patrol car and is looking at other available vehicles. The City originally purchased seven Caprice PPVs in late 2012 but since then has been testing Ford's and Chrysler's latest police models in order to make a final decision on a primary patrol car. Government Fleet magazine spoke with the City's Fleet Services Manager Dennis Hogan about the shift.

“Cedar Rapids moved forward with the Caprice because at the time of implementation Ford had yet to introduce mass production of the Interceptor, and the Charger had less interior square footage than the Caprice,” Hogan explained. “When evaluating what was available, the Caprice seemed to give our officers the most room and operational response. Clearly, we had to move forward based on what was available, understanding that once we had all of the Big Three with police package vehicles in production, we would re-evaluate.”

The City currently has the seven Caprice PPV patrol cars previously purchased in service and will be placing another six into service in the coming months, Hogan said. The City purchased the existing vehicles on the state contract so it isn’t under any obligation to purchase more.

“Our plan, should our chief approve of the recommendation, is to run the Caprices through their normal life cycle on front line patrol,” he said. He added that the life cycle for patrol cars in service in Cedar Rapids is five years.

Hogan explained that although the City is moving away from the Caprice as its primary vehicle, the City doesn’t have specific issues with the Caprice. Rather, other vehicles are likely more suited to meet the City police department’s operational needs in this case.

“We do not have significant issues with the Caprice package and view it as a solid police patrol vehicle, but our evaluation brought our officers and committee members to the conclusion that the Interceptor is a better fit for our fleet,” Hogan said. “In the end, it is important that as a fleet organization, we provide our officers with the best-suited and accepted vehicle for their needs. We will never see a large police car again, so it is our task to make the best selection from what is available to us.”

After the City decided to continue to evaluate more patrol cars, once additional vehicles became available for testing, Hogan said a number of stakeholders have been involved with the ongoing process. A committee consisting of members from the police department and fleet management/maintenance are working to choose the right vehicle for the City.

“We have had numerous reviews and operational summaries for all three vehicles, the Ford Interceptor, the Dodge Charger, and the Chevrolet Caprice,” Hogan said. “This process has been moving along for the last four to six months and included visits to agencies using the Interceptor and Charger, as well as impromptu ride and drives coordinated with our vehicle suppliers and other agencies.”

So far, Ford’s Interceptor and Utility are looking like promising candidates, although Hogan said the selection process is far from over.

“We were impressed with the design and thought-out process Ford invested in their police package, to include lighting options from the factory, key configuration, and dashboard design,” he said. “We want to walk completely through this process so that once we have a selection it will be our long-term selection, similar to our long-standing relationship with the Crown Victoria.”

Hogan offered some examples of features of the Interceptor that interested those involved in the selection process.

“Some key positives for the Interceptor are the column shifter, the passenger side door locks, the key configuration and coding, a dashboard pocket to level mount the radar unit, the ability to retrofit some of our existing Crown Victoria materials to the Interceptor, and programmable command buttons on the steering wheel, to name a few.”

From the perspective of fleet maintenance, because the Interceptor sedan and SUV are built on the same platform, the City would be able to minimize parts inventory and associated costs, Hogan said.

“The SUV is also lower to the ground, making it a perfect fit for K-9 operations,” he added.

With the evaluation process underway, Hogan said it’s just a matter of time before the City selects a vehicle.

“This has been a very time-consuming process,” Hogan said. “We knew it would be quite an undertaking, but by working with a committee of police officers, police command staff, and fleet management and maintenance personnel, we are confident that whatever decision we make, we will have done all of the homework needed to ensure our success.”

By Greg Basich