Most people do not see a police car until it is passing them by. Or behind them.
The Butler Police Department's newest vehicles may make make it even harder to spot a cop car as the department has started to stray away from the traditional white Ford Crown Vic car model and toward a newer, bigger, darker vehicle.
Police introduced their newest vehicles, a pair of 2012 Ford Interceptor SUVs, on their Facebook page last week. Capt. Ciro Chimento said the department plans to eventually transition the entire police car fleet into only using the all-wheel drive vehicles.
"The [Interceptors] are replacing two Crown Vics. Eventually, they'll be phased out," Chimento said.
Butler Police Chief Ed Card said the department does have a Ford Explorer SUV in the fleet but that it is nearly 10 years old. The Crown Vic model the department mostly uses is also being discontinued, he said. Police cars typically need to be retired after such an amount of time because of the stress put on them as officers need to accelerate and decelerate quickly and let the vehicle idle when on patrol. Chimento said the department has rotated out the older vehicles and purchased one or two new vehicles per year.
This year, the police department purchased two of the Interceptor SUVs from the Cranford County Co-Op for just over $25,000 each, before necessary police additions. Chimento said some of the technology pieces the department had already owned and had in other vehicles, such as the road-vibrating sirens purchased a few years ago, were able to be moved to the new vehicles.
While Chimento said the black color of the car was chosen as the chief's preference, the actual model was chosen by the chief based on safety. Card did an analysis based on a Michigan State Police Vehicle Study from 2010 through 2012 that examined the features of the 2010 Crown Vic and 2011 Crown Vic, which the department has, and the 2012 Interceptor SUV and 2012 Interceptor car model. What Card found was that the Interceptor SUV outperformed the Crown Vic in nearly every category, with the exception of interior operational comfort for which the Crown Vic was ranked only slightly higher.
Other categories in which the Interceptor was ranked higher include stopping distance at 60 mph, head and leg room, how long it takes to accelerate and decelerate in each, ease in exiting and entering the vehicle and overall comfort. But most importantly, Card said the new cars will allow officers to travel on roads that are often dangerous in the borough during inclement weather situations, such as snow. Areas near Cleary Aevnue, Morse Avenue and Cascade Way have created challenges for the police cars after heavy snowfall. Card said even Route 23 is difficult to navigate in the cars when the ground is slippery.
"There's just so many areas, you just don't realize," he said.
Card said he did not think the Butler Police Department was unique in wanting to transition their fleet to the SUV models.
"I think you'll start to see a lot more police SUVs on the street," he said.
While some may think SUVs cost more, Card said the new vehicles were a better financial decision for the borough.
"Fiscally, it wasn't responsible to have a whole fleet of vehicles we couldn't use all the time," he said.
As for amenities, Card said the steering wheels in the new vehicles have controls that can be integrated into the police sirens and radars. The Interceptor SUV also features an LED spotlight, an attractive feature, Card said, because typically, the spotlights on older model police cars tend to burn out bulbs quickly.