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Citrus Heights police roll out new 2015 patrol SUVs

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Citrus Heights Police Sgt. Eric Dias stands next to a new 2015 Ford Interceptor SUV.

Updated June 29, 9:49 p.m.–
Citrus Heights police are rolling out a fleet of new 2015 patrol SUVs and will be auctioning off their 2006 patrol cars in favor of what officers say is a better-handling, faster, safer, and more “roomy” vehicle.

Although Citrus Heights residents have been seeing police SUVs in use around town since the end of 2013, Police Sgt. Eric Dias said the department had only purchased a limited number initially and had them retrofitted for K-9 or sergeant use only. He said the first patrol units hit the streets in June this year, with more to follow in the next few months.

Through a discounted rate, the SUVs cost about $28,200 for the base unit, with an additional $4,800 for additional equipment through Ford like a backup camera and blind-spot notification sensors. Dias said an additional $12,500 is put into the vehicle to install items like computers, radios and lights, bringing the total price to about $45,500.

In charge of managing Citrus Heights Police Department’s vehicle fleet, Sgt. Dias said the decision to go with SUVs rather than cars came after Ford discontinued its Crown Victoria Police Interceptor line in 2011. He said the automaker since released two “police package” vehicles, with its car version based on the Taurus platform and the SUV version based off the Explorer.

Dias called the Police Interceptor SUVs “essentially Ford Explorers,” except for a police package that includes upgraded electrical, cooling and braking systems, as well as contoured seats that accommodate officers’ waist gear.

The new SUVs are popular among officers and include several advantages over the discontinued Crown Victorias, such as all-wheel drive (AWD), standard bullet-stopping ballistic panels on side doors, larger storage space, and a more efficient 304-horsepower V6 engine, compared to the Crown Victoria’s 250-horsepower V8.

According to Sgt. Dias, License Plate Reader technology will also be featured on two of the new SUVs, bringing CHPD’s total up to six LPR-equipped vehicles. Dias said the department uses the camera technology “strictly for criminal vehicles,” like tracking stolen vehicles and high-risk probationers, rather than finding cars with expired tags.

Several Citrus Heights officers interviewed by The Sentinel all expressed a preference for the SUVs over the Crown Victorias, citing more space inside, AWD handling advantages, and various tech features the older “Crown Vics” don’t have.

“As it is, it’s an all-around better vehicle,” said Officer Anthony Boehle, commenting the SUVs were built and engineered as pursuit-rated vehicles by Ford. “It’s not a Porsche or Ferrari or anything else — however, in my 20 years, it’s probably the best police vehicle I’ve ever driven.”

[Also on the Sentinel: ‘Bait Vehicle’ Signs Raise Questions from Residents]

Although the older model 2006 patrol cars are being rotated out this year, Sgt. Dias said residents will still see the department’s 2011 model Crown Victorias patrolling the streets for several years, due to CHPD purchasing about a dozen of the cars back in 2011 after hearing the cars would be discontinued.

Dias said the 2006 patrol cars are up for replacement due to increased maintenance costs as the vehicles put on miles over the years. He said the vehicles typically see a little over 100,000 miles of use before being replaced, and have a “vigorous maintenance program” that includes routine service and oil changes every 3,000 miles.

In addition to wear-and-tear from mileage, he said patrol vehicle life is also affected by extended idling – a practice he said officers get asked about all the time. Dias said police idle their vehicles for a variety of reasons, including protecting temperature-sensitive electronic equipment in the vehicle, as well as to compensate for battery draw from emergency and interior lights, computers, radios and charging units that are consistently on in the vehicle.

That idling also plays a role in the gas mileage averages of police vehicles.

“With the eight (SUVs) that we have on the street right now, we’re realizing a two mile per gallon increase,” said Dias — although clarifying that number might drop once the latest vehicles are used for patrol. He said the Crown Victorias averaged about nine miles per gallon, while the SUVs have so far seen about 10 to 12 miles per gallon with sergeant and K-9 use.

Dias said within three months, the older 2006 Crown Victorias will have all been replaced by the 2015 model SUVs. He said the department plans to keep the remaining 2011 model police cars on the streets until they are eventually rotated out and replaced with SUVs.
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