The New York Police Department is arguably the most well-known police force in the nation. With a fleet of 10,500 vehicles, any changes the fleet makes often makes headlines, from the types of vehicles its buys to the ones it tests out.
Robert Martinez, deputy commissioner for Support Services for the NYPD, talks about hybrid police vehicles, fleet budgeting, piloting police SUVs, and efforts to improve vehicle utilization.
Q: What are some exciting recent purchases for the NYPD fleet?
A: We purchased our first group of 30 Bolts for our school safety unit and traffic control division, and our traffic agents.
We also ordered 180 new Ford hybrid police cars, the Responder sedans. The Responder is about $15,000 less than the Ford Utility hybrid. Ford redid the interior and did a nice job with the ergonomics. I test drove one a couple of weeks ago, actually. I took it home and drove it around for a couple of days and it’s not bad. Ford did a good job redesigning the interior to make it a little roomier than the retail model. There’s some usage that we’re not going to able to use the sedan for because we carry long guns now. We have citywide counterterrorism response teams, so we’re going to have to buy the Ford [Interceptor Utility] more as we go forward.
Q: Will you be ordering the standard hybrid Ford Interceptor Utility?
A: Ford raised the price of the [Interceptor Utility]. A fully outfitted [standard hybrid Interceptor] for the NYPD, including a tablet costing $5,000, is going to cost me over $62,000, so I can’t afford to buy a large quantity of those at that price.
Q: Wouldn’t the lower operating cost, from fuel and maintenance, make it worth it?
A: We’re the greenest police department, I’m pretty sure, in United States. We have a lot of experience with hybrid vehicles. I’m in agreement that there is a savings with maintenance. If you do more analysis and tweak your maintenance program for the hybrid you can get even more savings out of it, so that certainly makes somewhat of a justification in buying the vehicle, but right now the city’s in a bit of a financial crisis, and if I can get three [hybrid sedans] for the price of two [hybrid SUVs], or three and a half cars for the price of two — even though I don’t really want to, price is going to drive what I’m able to buy.
The two most important things when deciding which vehicle to buy are: it has to meet the mission and it has to be safe. Those are more important than saving money, but we also have to stretch our budgets as far as we can.
Q: What fleet makeup do you anticipate purchasing, moving forward?
A: We’re going to do a mix. We’re going to do a pilot program with the Dodge Durango pursuit-capable vehicle, and also with Chevrolet Traverses, and just get some analysis. But at some point, we’re going to be doing a mix of vehicles. We’re looking at both our budget and the mission and see how we can get the biggest bang for the buck.
Q: Tell us more about the pilot program.
A: We started going to hybrid police vehicles using retail vehicles for our patrol force way back in 2009. We had Nissan Altimas, then Ford Fusions. We’re not afraid to do that. Nowadays, with vehicles having 5-star crash ratings, vehicles are very safe. The speed limit in the city right now is 25 mph. It’s only 50 mph on the highways. It’s not always a deal breaker for me, for a vehicle to be a police model or pursuit-capable vehicle. And New York City policy is not to pursue anyway.
With the Traverse, we bought a police vehicle turnkey. We spec’ed it out and the principal dealer will do the upfitting. They’re going to put lights and sirens and decals and cages. We use them for K-9 patrol, we just haven’t used them for regular patrol yet, but now they’ll be a regular patrol vehicle.
Q: I understand the NYPD has made efforts to improve vehicle utilization. Can you tell us more about that?
A: We’re really trying to do as much as analysis as possible, to run the fleet as efficiently as possible, looking at all the data we have and figure out where we can reduce the size of the fleet and reduce maintenance costs.
We use fuel [management system] data and look for vehicles that are underutilized. So when we get a request for a unit that’s expanding or that we want to add vehicles to that unit, we’ll look at another unit that has underutilized vehicles and take them from that unit. This way, rather than constantly increasing the size of the fleet, we look to adjust the fleet and maybe change the uses of the vehicles.
If a vehicle’s not getting 4,000 miles a year on it, then we look to reassign it. Some of our precincts are 1 square mile, and some are 20 square miles. 4,000 miles a year is about 70 miles a week. Even in a 1- square-mile precinct, if you’re not putting in 70 miles a week on the vehicle, it’s not being fully utilized.
So far, we’ve been able to keep [fleet size] static the past year.