The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department chose Ford's Police Interceptor Utility as its new standard patrol vehicle, after more than two years of research, testing, evaluation, and feedback. The process began shortly after Ford announced it would halt production of the Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptor (CVPI), Fleet Manager Daren Turner told POLICE Magazine.
"From preliminary planning to actually receiving the test vehicles took about six months to a year," Turner said. "After we received the vehicles, it took at least an additional year to complete our evaluation and develop a conclusion."
The department tested patrol vehicles from each of the Detroit 3, including Ford's Police Interceptor sedan and utility, Chrysler's Dodge Charger Pursuit, and General Motors' Chevy Caprice PPV and Tahoe SUV. The Chevy Impala wasn't evaluated.
"All of the vehicles were an improvement from the current CVPIs," Turner added. "However, when we received feedback from EVOC, as well as the officers who tested the vehicles, the answer was clear. This vehicle had the best handling and the best technology available of any of the competitors."
The LVMPD EVOC unit put the contenders through their paces, testing how they handled in the desert heat, urban Las Vegas Strip, and rural areas such as Red Rock Canyon and Mt. Charleston.
"Officer safety drove the decision more than anything," said Turner. "We wanted a vehicle with anti-lock brakes and stability control that was pursuit rated."
The agency expects to roll out their first batch (45 marked units) of Ford P.I. Utility vehicles in June and fully replace CVPIs within six years. Turners' fleet management unit must first add emergency equipment to the new vehicles. The evolution of technology with the new era of vehicles will smooth this process, said Dan Jackson, fleet operations supervisor.
"When we initially rolled out the CVPIs, everything was still incandescent or strobe lights," Jackson said. "With newer LEDs, it gives you the ability to add more lights with less power." LVMPD will use Federal Signal's Vision SLR lightbar paired with emergency lighting mounted in the push bumper. Additional technical advances could include in-car video systems and back-up sensors. Very little of the equipment from the Ford CVPI's will be added to the new vehicles.
The agency initially didn't evaluate the Ford P.I. Utility or Chevy Tahoe but said they were eventually determined to be a "much better vehicle for our needs," Jackson added. Officers needed the extra payload for their gear.
"We had an issue fitting all of the equipment in the trunk of some of the sedans," Turner said. "In others, the back seat was cramped for a man who is 5 feet 6 inches. Anyone over 6 feet tall would need to be transported in a van."
The agency's 2,194 officers will receive training on the P.I. Utility when they retake the EVOC course, Turner said.
"Handling characteristics are a lot different than the CVPI," Turner said. "Visibility has changed greatly; you're sitting much higher now. Combine that with the change to all-wheel drive and quicker acceleration than the Crown Vic and you have quite a different driving platform."
The economics of the vehicle also helped the agency gain approval. The P.I. Utility is nearly the same price as the Ford P.I. sedan, and the agency expects to get 25,000 additional miles out of each unit. Resale value is also expected to be greater than CVPIs, Turner said.
The LVMPD's fleet committee spearheaded the process that also involved three area commands, which evaluated each vehicle for nearly a month and provided feedback to the committee. The agency's fleet unit manages about 1,800 vehicles, including 650 marked units.
Adam Ogden is a freelance writer based in Nevada.