Cop Car Clash

Will Seattle's New Fleet Be SUVs or Hippie Hybrids?

Cop Car Clash

George Pfromm

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When Ford announced it would stop producing Crown Victorias, the staple of police car fleets from New York to Los Angeles, in 2011, police departments across the country realized they'd have to find a new model of squad car to phase in as old ones wore out. The decision must be made carefully: Police cars must withstand constant use, dangerous driving, and all weather conditions; suspects must be able to get in and out of them safely while handcuffed; and, as cities make fleets more environmentally sound, there are serious concerns about fuel efficiency.

Here in Seattle, the city has identified a half dozen potential replacement models for its fleet of around 300 cop cars, tested them for more than a year, and said it will announce a winner in the next few months.

But while city spokespeople say the process is going smoothly—and it's partly on hold now while the mayor's office changes hands—the union representing roughly 1,200 Seattle cops seems to feel otherwise, claiming that a decision was already made by officers and then rejected at city hall.

In the November issue of the Guardian, the newspaper of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild (SPOG), vice president Sergeant Ty Elster complains that the city ignored cops' recommendation. He writes that "after many months of SPOG members testing, evaluating, and researching vehicles," when the cops announced their pick, "City Hall didn't like our selection."

What was that winning vehicle? A Ford Interceptor SUV.

Just picture it: A brand-new fleet of hulking police SUVs cruising the city while the department tries to soften its image. The department is currently under a federal consent decree that contends police have used excessive force and racially biased tactics. Not to mention the city is also trying to meet new climate goals.

That SUV recommendation came from the SPD, the union, and the city's fleets officials. But it's no wonder Mayor Mike McGinn put on the brakes.

What does the mayor prefer?

According to Elster, McGinn "felt that a hybrid vehicle, such as the Toyota Prius, would be more suitable and 'in tune with city values.'"

Katherine Schubert-Knapp, a spokeswoman for the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which is in charge of purchasing the fleet, says McGinn "deferred acting on the recommendation until additional testing could be completed," which includes a closer look at technology to improve fuel efficiency. McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus declined to comment on specifics, saying only, "It definitely is a city policy that our fleet and buildings should be as green as possible." But no, the Prius is not a real option—it doesn't meet standards for police cars. SPOG did not return requests for comment.

Regardless, the decision will end up in mayor-elect Ed Murray's lap. And adding another wrinkle, a decision on paint color for the cars has not yet been made. The industry standard is a black-and-white car, though Seattle currently uses a color of blue that's a stock color for Ford vehicles—but not the other manufacturers. What if we don't go with Ford? A decision on color will have to come after they choose the car. And it'll be crucial, since, as SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb readily acknowledges, police vehicles serve as "one of the first impressions that people get of their police department," and ours is trying for a bit of a makeover.

Even with fuel efficiency in mind, we may still end up with a larger car. The only hybrid in the mix appears to be a Chevy Tahoe, a large SUV. And as for what color cars we'll be staring at for the next decade, who gets a say in that decision—will there be any public input at all? Will SPOG be itching for a fight?—will be resolved further down the road. recommended


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1 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
My vote would be for the Ford Taurus and keeping the current color scheme.…
Posted by John Powell on December 4, 2013 at 10:22 AM · Report this
But it would be sweet to go back the 1975 Plymouth Satellite.…
Posted by John Powell on December 4, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Report this
i would go with monte carlo ss but 4dr and for speed control camaro ss and tact the suburban now was that not easy or what oh get read of that shity blue uhg
Posted by georgewh on December 4, 2013 at 10:53 AM · Report this
5 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy

Interesting info on the MPG stats for some of the options being considered. Seems like the SUV isn't *that* far off. If the cops and fleet team prefer it, city hall shouldn't stand in their way.

Prius would be nice, but it's not an actual option.
Posted by kopp123 on December 4, 2013 at 10:32 PM · Report this
It's not the cars that are accused of "excessive force and racially biased tactics." Give the cops whatever cars they need to do their jobs. They can soften their image by not acting like a bunch of asshole thugs.
Posted by yuiop on December 5, 2013 at 12:42 AM · Report this
Driving an SUV makes you a thug. You just can't help it.
Posted by Why are there cars? on December 5, 2013 at 2:31 AM · Report this
@8: I agree. Didn't Hitler invent the SUV?
Posted by damn bastards on December 5, 2013 at 7:48 AM · Report this
Godzilla1916 10
Why don't we give them a Yugo, a night stick and free Voodoo Donut certificates. I like that kind of pig force, I mean police force.
Posted by Godzilla1916 on December 5, 2013 at 10:05 AM · Report this
yuiop has the right of it.
Posted by Seattle ENTP on December 5, 2013 at 12:20 PM · Report this
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AndyBlue 13
The Seattle police defrauded us all for years for a system of accountability that never existed and the cost from this mess resulted in MILLIONS and MILLIONS gone thanks to the most corrupt police department in the United States being the only department with a full time federal babysitter.

Nothing has been done to weed out all the corrupt cops throughout the Seattle Police Department.... Nothing.

The Seattle police with take what we give them and like it.

And the LAST thing they need is a fleet of SUVs to stroke their small man syndrome as they drive into Seattle to assault abuse and lie our citizens into jail.

Its DISGUSTING what they have gotten away with up until now and STILL we have no accountability.
Posted by AndyBlue on December 5, 2013 at 2:56 PM · Report this
orino 14
*sigh* The new Ford Explorer Police Interceptor is, for all practical purposes, a Taurus station wagon. It shares its engine and underlying architecture with the Taurus Police Interceptor. The Explorer is currently in use with many, many city, county and state police agencies, most of which report it gets BETTER gas mileage than the Crown Vics they replaced. And the Explorer is the only one of the vehicles SPD tested that has enough room for all the stuff the cops carry in their Crown Vics.

As for color, when you buy vehicles in bulk, you can get them painted any color you want... just supply a paint sample. I hope SPD sticks with its present metallic blue. Black and white is a California cop car thing...
Posted by orino on December 5, 2013 at 9:01 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 15
Put them all on bikes. Too many of those charged with "serving and protecting" (LOL!! don' get me started on that one!) are simply too fucking fat.

Regular cardio workouts would help them and lower health insurance rates.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on December 6, 2013 at 10:12 AM · Report this
I don't believe Taurus has a wagon option. It is a sedan, and, I think it to be the practical choice. It has to have lower maintenance and operating costs than any of the SUV options. And, SUVs need to go away altogether. Especially with the good image that SPD has to overcome. The last thing goons should be driving is a goonmobile. To hell with what the "Guild" wants. Give them a chunk of coal.
Posted by daytrippeur on December 6, 2013 at 10:42 AM · Report this
I don't believe Taurus has a wagon option. It is a sedan, and, I think it to be the practical choice. It has to have lower maintenance and operating costs than any of the SUV options. And, SUVs need to go away altogether. Especially with the 'goon' image that SPD has to overcome. The last thing goons should be driving is a goonmobile. To hell with what the "Guild" wants. Give them a chunk of coal.
Posted by daytrippeur on December 6, 2013 at 10:49 AM · Report this
hillpagan 18
That Interceptor is not an SUV, really. It looks fine to me. I'm with yuiop.
Posted by hillpagan on December 6, 2013 at 12:41 PM · Report this
funnylittlemunki 19
Since everyone at the SPD is obviously from the PAST, let's buy them a fleet of muthafucking dinosaurs to ride around on - to and from beating random civilians and ignoring real crimes. Sounds reasonable to me.
Posted by funnylittlemunki on December 6, 2013 at 2:00 PM · Report this
20 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
It doesn't matter what they drive. It looks like the sedan and SUV model both come with an ecoboost engine which is a little something. And a bully is a bully whether they drive an SUV or a hybrid.
Posted by Skippy von poobutt on December 6, 2013 at 2:28 PM · Report this
It's a crossover, not an SUV. Deal with it.
Posted by kbatku on December 6, 2013 at 8:57 PM · Report this
rob! 23
Generally speaking, I'm disgusted with the massive move to SUVs in fleet vehicles over the last 30 years. A lot of it is really about government employees wanting to cruise around on the job in the same kind of ego-reinforcing vehicle they use for grocery shopping, when a Fiesta would serve either function just fine.

Police departments have actually been the laggards in this shift to SUVs, in part because of sedans' better handling.

Ford has a smart strategy though, in basing BOTH an updated sedan and an SUV on a common platform with many shared parts and service procedures; both are also available with all-wheel drive, and both can accommodate lots of electronics.

The SUV, though, has a particularly aggressive and militaristic look that runs counter to the need for reform; it also has a higher center of gravity that will affect handling.

The city should choose the sedan version.
Posted by rob! on December 7, 2013 at 2:25 AM · Report this
Texas10R 24
rob! has the correct conclusion and takes the win. The all-wheel-drive sedan meets the criteria and with less risk of high-speed-maneuver rollover.

Screw what the police "want" if the desire does not match the need.

See for yourself:…
Posted by Texas10R on December 7, 2013 at 8:09 AM · Report this
@13: "Small man syndrome"? Have you seen the men of the SPD: fat, fat, fat.

Police cars should be police *cars*: get the sedan.
Posted by tiktok on December 7, 2013 at 10:17 AM · Report this
Obviously, the cops need the right tools to do their jobs and a Prius doesn't seem to be a reasonable alternative for patrol cops - but why not detectives? What's most aggravating here is that SPD and the union still and always seem to hold themselves as separate and apart from the City and its policies and values - whether a diverse workforce, cost cutting or environmental priorities. WTF cops! Get with the program - you have just as much obligation to reduce climate pollution at home and on the job as everyone else. Set an example for crying out loud!!

And - those cars should specify light bars (the things that are blue and red and go around and around to get your attention) that don't require the patrol car to idle.
Posted by Fluffy on December 7, 2013 at 10:40 AM · Report this
@25 - uh - I don't think the reference was to BMI.
Posted by Fluffy on December 7, 2013 at 10:41 AM · Report this
WFM 28
How about basing a debate on facts instead of image? The Interceptor actually gets better mileage than the Crown Vic despite being more powerful.


Engine: The new car has a 3.5-liter with 280 horsepower vs. the Crown Vic’s 4.6-liter with 250 horsepower.

Gas mileage: New car rated at 17 mpg in city and 24 on highway vs. Crown Vic’s 14 mpg in city and 21 mpg highway.
Posted by WFM on December 7, 2013 at 10:56 AM · Report this
rob! 29
It's important to note that the so-called "Interceptor" is TWO different vehicles (with a lot of under-the-skin commonalities), which Anna's article does not make clear. "Interceptor" is really a trim or options level, though an extreme one, specific to police work. The civilian sedan and SUV equivalents would be the Taurus and Explorer respectively. @28's link has photos of both from good angles. Ford probably benefits from downplaying the two-vehicles angle; the SUV would almost certainly be more profitable.

Except for perhaps a few special assignments, city cops don't need SUVs. Both can have all-wheel drive. Mileage is very similar. But the SUV is unnecessarily intimidating (see @23).

And @26 makes a good observation at the end there about fuel consumption at idle—a Canadian study showed that police vehicles spent on average 6.7 hours idling during a 10-hour shift. It's not just lights though; all the radios and computers need power, plus climate control. But maybe they should park more, in parking spaces like civilians, shut down, and walk beats.
Posted by rob! on December 7, 2013 at 11:34 AM · Report this
Years ago, I remember reading that cop cars in NYC then had 6-cylinder engines. Reason being there were no high-speed chases in big cities, thus the slower 6's were just fine. Seems to me that engine power should be well down the list of criteria for next-gen cop cars.
Posted by Citizen R on December 7, 2013 at 11:35 AM · Report this
Simone 31
How about a mixture of vehicles. Say a small car similar to the Panda police cars of the UK and then throw in a few bigger sedans. The smaller cars could be the hybrids and used much more often. If an officer needs to transport someone in custody then they call in a larger vehicle with a cage.
Posted by Simone on December 7, 2013 at 11:48 AM · Report this
The "Ecoboost" versions actually get lower MPG than the regular versions.…
Posted by spiderplanet on December 7, 2013 at 1:04 PM · Report this
33 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
rob! 34
@32, true, but with much more HP/torque (if that is even needed... probably not). They're marketing the Eco-Boost as providing savings over a V8 Crown Vic or V8 Chevy Tahoe.

@31: A panda car like this? XD (Make 'em work off those doughnuts.)
Posted by rob! on December 7, 2013 at 1:39 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 35
Of COURSE the cops want SUVs. Driving around in a big-ass SUV is 90% macho posturing.

The Prius would be an unworkable choice, but an SUV is equally stupid. SUVs are heavy, so they require a bigger engine to get them moving, they have longer breaking distances (particularly when it's wet, ie: half the year in Seattle), and are more likely to roll over. Look at the insurance accident statistics on SUVs. They make people feel safer, but it's an illusion. You're more likely to get in an accident with one than you are in a car.

There is probably no way of getting around the need for a fairly large car, with all the crap they have to cary around, but there is absolutely no need for fucking SUVs.

Regarding the color, they should definitely keep it pale blue. Seattle has had some variation of pale blue for half a century. Black and white would be yet more macho posturing bullshit.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on December 7, 2013 at 2:42 PM · Report this
fletc3her 36
I would hope they choose a car-based model. Why not a fleet of Renaults like they use in Paris?
Posted by fletc3her on December 7, 2013 at 4:45 PM · Report this

The homosexualization of Seattle continues. How come every time I see a Seattle “man” in a Prius I imagine his wife at home holding his testicles in a jar?
Posted by Wonderful Will on December 7, 2013 at 4:52 PM · Report this
Just buy one big Boeing 787 Dreamliner instead! Support the local economy.
Posted by j2patter on December 7, 2013 at 6:34 PM · Report this
delirian 39
The police union shot for the Moon and is now the decision is going to be made without their input. If they were wise, they would have asked for the Dodge Charger police vehicle, and they might have got it.
Posted by delirian on December 7, 2013 at 7:37 PM · Report this

...until the Dodge Charger Pursuit is recalled again.
Posted by Dude, Where's My Cruiser? on December 8, 2013 at 1:15 AM · Report this

Agreed. We need to request that Ford add a police version of the Ford Focus so that Seattle can add them to the mix of vehicles.

A modified Ford Focus is perfectly acceptable for patrolling many areas in the city where silly, land yachts and aggressive, muscle cars are an overkill that serve primarily as a genital prosthesis and ego enhancement. If officers want an SUV or muscle car, they are free to buy one with their own money. The city has to be more circumspect with its budget and the people's money.

Adding a practical and fuel efficient vehicle to the fleet would be an improvement. If everyone on the force wants a big, shiny new SUV, they need to decide where we're going to cut the budget to pay for them.
Posted by Tired of financing ego trips on December 8, 2013 at 1:37 AM · Report this
Kunst Frau 42
Monku Monku for Cthulhu’s sake.
Complaining about the police department wanting their utilitarian vehicles to be safe, rugged, efficient, easy to maintain and fast is like saying the fire department’s trucks are too big, too loud and smokey, so they should get horse drawn steam pumpers with bronze alarm bells. When you call 911 don’t you want emergency workers to get to you promptly and safely with the tools they need?
Posted by Kunst Frau on December 8, 2013 at 2:04 PM · Report this
43 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
44 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Foggen 45
Whatever vehicle the police use has to be fast enough for pursuit and tough enough to withstand relatively frequent crashes and ramming attempts. Most hybrids are a joke on both counts.

Ford Interceptors come in both sedan and SUV versions, and I'd be surprised if the police actually wanted the one and not the other. It sounds like, at least in this case, they've got the right idea.
Posted by Foggen on December 9, 2013 at 8:27 AM · Report this
**According to Elster, McGinn "felt that a hybrid vehicle, such as the Toyota Prius, would be more suitable and 'in tune with city values."**

I'd like to see Mayor MGinn repeatedly get in and out of Prius wearing a bulky utility belt.
Posted by jynne on December 10, 2013 at 3:16 PM · Report this
GlibReaper 47
The Seattle Police should have Tesla sedans. That should solve their hiring and retention problems.
Posted by GlibReaper on December 11, 2013 at 12:09 AM · Report this
GlibReaper 48
They could also use the more economical Mitsubishi i-MiEV (aka. the "My EV") for routine patrols. It's seen some use in Japan, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom as a police vehicle. If the city is serious about lowering it's carbon emissions and reforming it's police force, electric vehicles would be some good medicine.

I own one of these cars and it certainly doesn't have a great 0-60 time, but how much driving at 60 miles per hour can you do in the city? They could keep a few actual interceptors in the fleet (whether gas, electric or hybrid).………
Posted by GlibReaper on December 11, 2013 at 1:08 AM · Report this
pink ford transits.
Posted by mrblack38 on December 13, 2013 at 4:46 PM · Report this

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