Starting this spring, Greenfield police officers will be patrolling the city in squad cars not made by Ford for the first time in at least three decades.
The department has ordered seven Dodge Chargers to add to its fleet, replacing Ford’s Crown Victoria, a staple of police departments for years.
In 2011, Ford discontinued the Crown Victoria, Greenfield’s squad of choice for more than 20 years. So when it came time for replacements, the department, like many others across the country, shopped around for the first time in decades.
“For the first time in many, many years, it’s an open field for squad cars,” Greenfield Police Chief Brad Wentlandt said.
After comparing models from several manufacturers, the department settled on the Charger, which has been available as a police squad since 2006, bypassing Ford’s Crown Victoria replacement – the Taurus-based Police Interceptor – and the Chevrolet Caprice.
Captain David Patrick, the department’s fleet manager, obtained a sample Charger and sample Caprice that officers were asked to drive on patrol and then complete surveys on their experiences. Ford did not have an Interceptor available, however, the department does use the Taurus as administrative vehicles and officers were asked to drive and evaluate them as well.
Survey results left the the Charger and Caprice were virtually tied, though the Caprice's drawbacks made the department leery. In addition, the Charger, with a price tag of about $22,000, is almost $5,000 less than the Caprice or the Interceptor, and the Charger comes with a 5-year warranty.
“So, this year, it’s Dodge,” Wentlandt said. “We will evaluate cars again in 2013. At that point we’ll have a year’s worth of history out of the Chargers and we will have the experience and history of other agencies for the Caprice and Interceptor.”
The department is expected to have the vehicles at the end of March. The cars are black with a white wrap that stretches from the front doors to the vehicle’s rear, and has the words “Greenfield” and “Police” and the department’s badge.
The department revealed their choice on Facebook last week in a series of posts that generated a lot of comments among car aficionados.
“I like the paint scheme … still say you should have stayed with Fords though,” Nick Peters wrote.
“That look(s) sick … even for a cop car,” Sammi Lynn Spychalla posted.
So why did the department stick with Fords for so long?
According to Wentlandt, the current Crown Victoria has been largely unchanged for more than 14 years and the interior dimensions have been the same for almost 20 years, which was important because of the thousands of dollars in equipment mounted inside the squad.
“As we replaced cars, it was economically advantageous to keep buying Fords because we did not have to replace the interior and exterior equipment,” Wentlandt said.
In addition, for many years, Ford was the only rear-wheel-drive, full-size squad on the market. Staying with the rear-wheel-drive cars across the fleet meant the department did not have to train officers for the different vehicle dynamics of a front-wheel-drive squad.
The old Crown Victorias that are rotated out of the fleet will be auctioned off or traded in, depending on the best return, according to Wentlandt.