The patrol cars and trucks of the Fort Stockton Police Department may look good on the outside, but as they say, it's what's on the inside that counts.
According to Chief of Police Ryan Skelton, those insides aren't so good. Vehicles with emissions issues, sensor short-outs and fried wiring are turning the cruisers into clunkers. Among the department's auto arsenal are trucks better suited for family camping trips than hot pursuits and repurposed military vehicles that are soccer-mom hand-me-downs.
They might not have the turning radius required for proper maneuvering, engines are malfunctioning, and wires are popping out of the dash. While the vehicles are only approaching 10 years of age, that's a lifetime in cop car years where the units are pushed to their limits daily while quickly responding to calls, jumping curbs, and holding people that sometimes don't want to be held. The high milage has taken a toll.
“It's stop-and-go all the time,” Skelton said. “A lot of these vehicles, when they're set up for police use, they have bigger alternators and better braking systems and other things that are equipped for the type of driving that these trucks and these vehicles undergo. So now that we get to go to a better law enforcement vehicle, it will be easier to maintain and handle what they have to go through a little better.”
“We have one unit that we have had in the shop, set to the side due to the extensive repairs required on it,” said Skelton. “Our officers are starting to have to share vehicles, which causes our newer, better vehicles to be used twice as much therefore causing them to degrade even quicker.”
Instead of turning those lemons into lemonade, Skelton discovered a program that will give the police force a foxy fleet of police interceptors that will compliment his officers while saving the city time and money.
At last week's Fort Stockton city council meeting, the chief addressed members about a program offered by Enterprise Fleet Management — the same company behind Enterprise car rentals — that would provide the department new and outfitted patrol cars on a lease agreement. The city budget had allowed for $105,000 to go toward new vehicles. On a regular day, that would get you two or three new cruisers with a price tag of $50,000-60,000 each. With the Enterprise program, they will ship 9-10 cars to the city now under a five-year agreement at $105,000 per year.
The program had been presented to the city before but never acted upon. Enterprise had a detailed analysis on the current cars and what their condition and life expectancy was. Meanwhile, a similar program was underway down in Alpine, which was inspected at by Skelton. The chief figured that the time was right to give it a shot for his department.
“Our vehicles are going down quickly,” Skelton said to council. “We are depleting our repair budget quickly.”
Council members agreed to the proposal. The new cars will be Dodge Chargers and should arrive in approximately 45 days, though delivery could be a little longer considering the various bits of equipment that has to be loaded into each squad car.
“They were the least expensive vehicle, which will give us the most for our money,” he said.
“This will get us to a good starting point where these officers can work with new equipment that can be maintained,” Skelton said. “This, coupled together with the newer equipment we have purchased the last two-to-three years, will allow our fleet to be a more reliable fleet that we can spend less on repairs and more maintaining.”
The agreement with Enterprise guarantees vehicles that are under warranty and any repairs needed will be outsourced to authorized Enterprise repair shops in the area. Fewer cop cars in the city repair sheds will mean more time for the mechanics to work on other projects and equipment related to city use.
Though the city has entered into the five-year contract, they have the option to buy out of the program if they wish. If not, they can renew after time expires and switch the fleet out for new vehicles again, thus keeping them under warranty. Looking into the future, this could be the first step in a citywide upgrade of vehicles, all under this umbrella agreement with Enterprise.
As the new fleet rolls out onto Fort Stockton streets in the coming months, here's hoping that citizens will notice the upgraded patrol cars from the outside, and not from the back seat.