Decision delayed on buying police vehicle

City Manager John Pietig has delayed the purchase of a $28,843 Ford Utility Interceptor for police until the council hears a proposal to revert to black and white exteriors for all police department vehicles.

The color scheme is a separate issue from the purchase, which was recommended to the council at the March 19 meeting by police officials. Ford discontinued manufacturing of the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, which was used by the city for the past eight years.

"Not just any car works," Capt. Darin Lenyi said. "Only four are certified."

Vehicles that are certified go through rigorous testing by large law enforcement agencies such as the California Highway Patrol.

An ad hoc committee established by city staff has been examining and reviewing the available patrol vehicles for more than a year, Lenyi said. The committee chose the Ford Utility Police Interceptor, despite its difference from conventional police vehicles.

"It looks like an SUV, but it isn't," Lenyi said.

The Utility Interceptor made points with the staff committee because it has the best fuel economy in its class: 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on highways outperforming Crown Victorias, as well as competing Chrysler and General Motors product, Lenyi said.

Committee members were impressed that Utility Interceptor uses 32% less fuel while idling, which Lenyi said police vehicles do a large amount of time.

Another advantage, the Utility Interceptor is six inches taller than the Crown Victorias.

Police Employees Assn. President Larry Bammer supported the staff recommendation, citing the extra inches, which makes exiting it easier for bigger bodies.

"I am one of the taller, larger officers," Bammer said. "Getting in and out of the vehicle in a quick manner, which is important at crime scenes and traffic accidents, is really one of the best assets for public safety, for the [police] organization and for my back in retirement.

"The mere fact that it is higher and I won't have to go out with a back injury supports the change."

Although a foot shorter than vehicles now in use, the Interceptor better accommodates equipment and provides improved side views, Lenyi said.

"It is emerging as the vehicle of choice by other agencies," Lenyi said.

Laguna replaces its police vehicles about every three years, City Manger John Pietig said.

The fleet currently includes 11 marked Crown Victorias used as patrol cars and two SUVs, as well as unmarked vehicles used by detectives and other department personnel.

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