The 2012-MY Chevrolet Caprice PPV. Photo courtesy General Motors.

The 2012-MY Chevrolet Caprice PPV. Photo courtesy General Motors.

HILLSBORO, OR - Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Hillsboro, Ore., is running a pilot program with the new Caprice PPV and Tahoe PPV. Government Fleet spoke with Tom Baylis, fleet manager for the County, about the pilot and how the County is making the switch from the Ford Crown Victoria to the new police vehicles on the market. The County currently operates 534 units. Out of that total, 200 are with the sheriff’s office.

So far, County sheriff’s office deputies have tested all three vehicles, the Chevrolet Caprice PPV, Dodge Charger Pursuit, and Ford Police Interceptor. Recently, the County purchased one Caprice PPV and one Tahoe PPV and plans to put them into service in a few weeks for the long-term pilot.

“We had earlier been given an opportunity for extended evaluations of the Chevrolet and Dodge products. Then five deputies, including our lead EVOC instructor, recently participated in a Ride & Drive event held by Ford in Seattle, Wash.,” Baylis said. “Following that opportunity, the sheriff's office and fleet services transition team got back together and again discussed our perceptions of the relative merits of each vehicle. The majority of the team agreed that the Chevrolet Caprice PPV will most likely be our new primary patrol vehicle, and the Chevrolet Tahoe will also be used in certain specific patrol applications. Any of them would probably be acceptable, but Caprice is the vehicle they felt the most comfortable with from a size, handling and performance standpoint. They also liked the utility vehicle.”

Baylis said the County plans to drive the vehicles for at least a year before deciding on which vehicle to eventually go with. He added that because the County has two precincts, the vehicles will be circulated between them. The County will make a formal decision about which vehicles to go with, in large numbers, for the 2014/2015 fiscal year, according to Baylis. The County plans to use the Tahoe PPV in more rural areas, for specific command assignments, and for its K9 unit.

The upfitting process is fairly straightforward, Baylis explained. The County worked with Kerr Industries to install customized wiring harnesses, prisoner seats, rear door/window protection and ballistic panels in the two pilot vehicles. The remaining upfit process will be performed by county fleet staff.

“Because we’re able to recycle the light bar, communications console and prisoner screen, it’s just a matter of adapting it to fit,” Baylis said. “So now we’re just dealing with screen, emergency lighting, radios, laptops and gun locks. So it’s a little bit different.

An important aspect of upfitting the vehicles is bringing deputies into the process.

“We’re asking for their input where the prisoner screen partition should sit, etc.,” Baylis said. “Those types of small variances can make a deputy’s life comfortable or not.”

Finding the money to replace the patrol cars and utility vehicles currently in service isn’t a major issue for the County at this time, largely due to sound fiscal management, Baylis said. In addition, funding for vehicle replacement comes from three sources, he added, the general fund, a local option levy, and a third similar fund specific to the sheriff’s patrol district in Washington County's urban unincorporated area.

“[Multiple funding sources] add some budgeting challenges for fleet and the sheriff’s office, and for determining mileage projections, but it does give taxpayers some flexibility on choosing desired service levels,” Baylis said.

For the time being, the County is still running Ford Crown Victoria patrol cars. The County ordered 25 extra Crown Victoria models to insure a steady flow of replacement vehicles during the transition process through fiscal-year 2011/2012 and part of FY-2012/2013, and to help mitigate the eventual added expenses associated with the transition.

By Greg Basich