Mark Taylor
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Next year, Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies will more likely be driving sport utility vehicles than police cruisers.
That’s because the Ford Motor Company has halted production of the Crown Victoria, which is the basis of the Police Interceptor models popular with law enforcement agencies.
The county commission recently approved a bid not to exceed $434,000 for term and supply contracts for 2012 patrol vehicles.
Undersheriff Kevin Cavanaugh told commissioners the department’s fleet has become more “diversified” as a result of the Crown Victoria production halt.
“For vehicles that aren’t required for front line emergency response, we have been buying less than the police cruiser package,” he said. “Right now we are focused on getting rid of the old Crown Victorias and replacing those primarily for our first responders with Chevy Tahoes.”
Cavanaugh added that SUVs are better-suited to the department’s rural patrol areas.
“Some of the unincorporated areas we are responsible for require something other than a smaller, two-wheel drive car,” he said. “We have a lot of equipment our deputies are required to have with them at all times and something smaller than that simply will no longer serve the purpose.”
Chairman Ed Eilert expressed concern about the expense of SUV’s and fuel costs.
“I would hope that we would be judicious in the number of those types of vehicles we have,” he said. “Obviously there is a need in some cases for that type of vehicle but I hope we could keep those cost factors in mind.”
Commissioner Calvin Hayden, a retired sheriff’s lieutenant, said he believes the investment will pay off in the long run.
He said dust from gravel roads can damage equipment, and SUVs are more durable than other vehicles.
“They are a little more expensive, but in the long run you will probably save that in maintenance,” he said.
The term and supply contracts include Landmark Dodge, Dick Smith Ford, Roberts Chevrolet, Shawnee Mission Ford, Olathe Ford, Lou Fusz Chrysler and Overland Park Jeep.
Sealed bids for the purchase of the vehicles were opened in November.