FERNDALE — Residents may notice that Ferndale police have gotten a new look the next time they see one of their officers patrolling the city.
On Feb. 11, the Ferndale City Council unanimously approved the purchase of five new police vehicles — three Dodge Chargers and two Ford Explorers — at a cost of less than $125,000 to be allocated from the city’s motor pool fund. The vehicles will replace four Ford Crown Victoria patrol cars, which Ferndale police have used for many years, as well as one Crown Victoria administration vehicle.
According to Police Chief Tim Collins, “As much as we would like to continue the Crown Vic as our platform (vehicle), that is not to be, for they have discontinued it. I know that this (purchase) might seem fairly insignificant, but it’s important to us because when we make this decision, we will be stuck with it for quite some time.”
Collins told the council that one of the main challenges with selecting an entirely new patrol vehicle is that new equipment — including push bumpers, prisoner partitions, molded rear seats, rear window bars and door panels, electronic trays, light bar mounting hardware and console mounting hardware — must also be purchased for each car. The chief noted that this will require an additional cost of about $5,500 per vehicle, plus an additional $2,250 for installing the new gear and removing the old gear from the Crown Vics.
“All the equipment that goes into our cars are specific to that car,” Collins explained, “so much of the equipment that we have right now would not have fit into any of the new cars, no matter what we would have selected.”
To help offset the high cost of this purchase, the chief pointed out that the council’s decision also includes a transfer of $25,000 from the drug forfeiture fund into the motor pool fund.
Collins credited Sgt. Baron Brown for doing most of the legwork to determine which vehicles would be the most effective and affordable choice for the department. He added that the Charger and Explorer received the stamp of approval from the majority of Ferndale police officers, as well as city mechanic Michael McClellan.
“Sgt. Brown actually took the bull by the horns and did a very extensive investigation as to what would be the best vehicles for us,” Collins said. “He brought all of the vehicles here for an evaluation and had as many officers as he could drive them to see what they thought. … So this was a big decision for us, and a lot of time and effort went into it on the sergeant’s part. We’re very excited about it.”
The council also praised Brown for his thorough research, but Councilman Scott Galloway expressed concern that if the Charger and Explorer are redesigned in the coming years, the new equipment being purchased for each vehicle would no longer fit in the latest models. Collins admitted that this problem is a distinct possibility.
“Are they (Dodge and Ford) going to support these new vehicles in the same manner that the Crown Vic was supported?” he asked. “They say that this platform will stay the same for several years, but we’re all kind of at their mercy, so we’re hoping that they remain true to their word.”
In a subsequent interview, Councilman Mike Lennon, a retired Ferndale police officer, asserted that this was “a smart purchase” for the city. He believes that Chargers and Explorers are just as good, in terms of quality, price and gas mileage, as the department’s trusty Crown Vics.
“The Crown Vics were discontinued, so these Chargers are our best alternative,” he said. “They’re really well-built to protect our officers in the event of a crash, and they give them a little bit of extra horsepower on the road. Those SUVs are going to be a big help, too. When I used to drive around in a patrol car during the winter, it would sometimes get stuck in the snow on our residential streets. There are going to be some additional costs because of purchasing new equipment for the vehicles, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do for our officers.”
For Lennon, the fact that Ferndale’s men and women in blue favored the Charger over the other vehicles that were tested — the Ford Taurus and the Chevy Caprice — is the best indicator that the department made the right decision.
“Officers have to feel comfortable with the car that they drive, and our guys really seemed to get behind these,” he said. “I guess the public will just have to get accustomed to seeing some new police vehicles out on the road.”