Rocklin PD SUVs to hit the streets

Authorities address fuel efficiency, rollover fears
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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Police pursuit SUVS’ cost to city

Chevy Tahoe

Vehicle: $32,262

Accessories: $17,934

Total: $50,196


Ford Interceptor

Vehicle: $31,274

Accessories: $17,934

Total: 49,208

Total costs: $99,404

Source: City of Rocklin

Rocklin police are testing out two new pursuit-rated SUVs as a replacement for the iconic Ford Crown Victoria patrol sedans discontinued by the manufacturer.

Police wanted to test out some of the pursuit-rated SUVs, so they bought one of each. With a government discount, the city paid $32,362 for a Chevy Tahoe as well as $31,274 Ford Utility Interceptor based on the Explorer model.

“We thought we would give the opportunity for the guys to try both of them,” said Capt. Lon Milka.

Being up high, Milka said, both provide better visibility for the driver. The Chevy is a little roomier than the Ford. As soon as both vehicles get all their police equipment like light bars, push bars and Rocklin Police decals, the new vehicles will be supervisor vehicles.

“Eventually all of our cars will go this way, not just supervisor vehicles,” Milka said. “They’ll be phased in.”

The city’s policy on when to replace patrol cars has changed with the economy.

“In the past, our policy was five years, 100,000 miles, whichever came first,” said Public Affairs Manager Karen Garner. “For the last couple of years we have used those same criteria as a guideline only. Fleet and PD defer replacement or repurpose units now if, in our judgment, there are still good serviceable miles left in them.”

The department hopes to replace two more sedans at a cost of nearly $100,000, which includes $17,934 in police accessories for each vehicle. While that may seem like a lot, Rocklin City Councilmember George Magnuson said it’s necessary for public safety.

“Modifications to bring the units up to the requirements to be able to use it in the line of duty is expensive,” Magnuson said. “It’s the cost of doing business, having to supply a vehicle to patrol the street.”

Milka admits most of the parts are completely different from the sedans’, which makes re-using parts next to impossible.

“When you put in the computer, you want to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the airbag. Then there are ballistic panels in the doors,” Milka said.

The city used to install all the equipment in-house at a cost of 120 man hours for each installation. Now that work is contracted out. Ford Motor Company’s phase-out of the popular Crown Victorias turned out to be a good thing for Rocklin, which was looking for a vehicle that could carry all the necessary equipment and have room for an officer and a prisoner or two.

“We’re switching from the sedan to the SUV for the gross vehicle weight rating,” Milka said. “It’s safer for the officers and safer for any prisoners we might have inside.”

Crown Victorias could carry a 1,200-pound payload. The Tahoe is rated for 1,591 pounds and the Ford 1,790 pounds, according to police. Milka said the sedans get about the same miles per gallon as the newer SUVs.

“Some of the ratings we got were in the teens (in-town mileage) and I don’t know the cars got much better than that,” he said. “As time goes on they get more fuel-efficient.”

Last year, the City Council brought up a concern about the perceived increased rollover risks with SUVs. However, Milka said the pursuit-rated SUVs sit lower than the civilian model.

Mayor Diana Ruslin said she is satisfied with everything she’s heard about the new models.

“The council discussed this last year and council was in favor of moving forward,” she said. “Staff presented a sound and thorough report regarding SUV safety. Public safety has been and continues to be a top priority.”

The SUVs could be on patrol soon. Both the California Highway Patrol and the Placer County Sheriff’s Department use patrol SUVs.