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Police need new go-to car after Ford stops making Crown Victorias

Ford stops making Crown Victoria and law enforcement must adapt

  • Snohomish County auto technician Dennis Colyn works on the brakes of a deputy's Ford Crown Victoria. The sheriff's office and other police agencies in...

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Snohomish County auto technician Dennis Colyn works on the brakes of a deputy's Ford Crown Victoria. The sheriff's office and other police agencies in the county have used the "Crown Vics" to fill their patrol car fleets for many years. Ford is no longer going to manufacture the car.

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By Rikki King
Herald Writer
@rikkiking
Published:
  • Snohomish County auto technician Dennis Colyn works on the brakes of a deputy's Ford Crown Victoria. The sheriff's office and other police agencies in...

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Snohomish County auto technician Dennis Colyn works on the brakes of a deputy's Ford Crown Victoria. The sheriff's office and other police agencies in the county have used the "Crown Vics" to fill their patrol car fleets for many years. Ford is no longer going to manufacture the car.

Lady Justice needs a new ride.
The Ford Motor Co. this year stopped making the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. For nearly 15 years, the "Crown Vic" dominated the market for law enforcement's patrol cars.
Police administrators throughout the country now must pick a new standard squad car. A few agencies in Snohomish County have decided, but most haven't.
It will be a huge change for officers, many of whom spend their work day behind the wheel. Police fleets require complex management and maintenance plans, and even those who work under the hoods aren't sure what to expect.
The Washington State Patrol and the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office are going with the Chevrolet Caprice. Police in Everett, Monroe, Mukilteo, Mill Creek and Arlington haven't decided yet. Lynnwood police switched to the Dodge Charger a while back and won't be affected.
The State Patrol owns more than 700 vehicles used by commissioned police officers, fleet manager Steve Smeland said. The majority of those are Crown Victorias.
Smeland expects to place his first order for Caprices before the end of the year.
Cost was an important factor in choosing a replacement vehicle, he said. So was acceleration. Throughout the day, troopers need to pull into highway traffic from the shoulder. They also need room to store a ton of gear, such as traffic cones and emergency medical equipment.
Snohomish County sheriff's Lt. John Flood just ordered his agency's first round of Caprices, he said. People may see them on the road as early as next spring.
"We're done with the Crown Vic," he said.
The sheriff's fleet numbers about 200 vehicles, about half of which are patrol cars.
They needed a car that's easy to work on, Flood said. Cars that aren't mechanic-friendly would rack up higher labor costs. Caprices have a bolt-on nose, meaning they're easy to fix after fender-benders.
Flood expects deputies will need some training in their new wheels.
"It drives completely differently than the Crown Victoria," he said.
The Everett Police Department keeps about 90 patrol cars, Sgt. Robert Goetz said.
Everett police are researching their options. They may test several models in the coming months.
A police car must be safe and reliable but also must perform in an emergency, Goetz said.
"Patrol cars endure quite a bit of stresses on them in their lifetimes," he said.
Mill Creek police recently bought new cars, so they have some time to decide, Detective Kyle Hughes said. Like many agencies, they make major purchases through state contracts, which limit selection to just a couple of models.
Officers will need time to adjust, Hughes said. After driving Crown Victorias for so long, they don't need to think about where to reach when they want to shift, release the seat belt or start the siren.
"Those little changes take a while for the muscle memory to catch up," he said.
On top of everything else, patrol cars don't leave the lot ready to roll. They need after-market additions, such as emergency lights, glass and mesh partitions, and plastic back seats.
No one's quite sure whether the lights and accessories police have purchased, but not yet installed, for Crown Victorias can be adjusted to fit other models.
Snohomish County auto technician Bob Oppegard is curious to see how it all turns out. Maintenance and repairs on police cars is part of what he does at the county shop almost every day.
Oppegard has worked on the modern Crown Victoria since its debut in the late 1990s, he said. He knows the car's quirks, and how it weathers the wear-and-tear of police work.
"I was pretty amazed how much they go through brakes," he said. "That car is getting pushed pretty hard, all night long and all day long."
Oppegard suspects he might see a few new model police cars this year, but that he'll start seeing them regularly as older cars are replaced next year.
"It'll be quite a switchover for us," he said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com
Story tags » Police

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