by SC Associate Publisher Chuck Larsen
The City of Sanibel is near completion of a new police transportation system that involves putting 20 re-designed, dark gray patrol vehicles on the streets. Council approved the plan to move from pool vehicles to assigned vehicles for officers more than a year and a half ago.
Sanibel Police Chief Bill Dalton said it took that long for budget approval, ordering, manufacturing and special equipment installation. He explained that the city had six to eight pool units for patrol, but the 20 assigned vehicles makes officers’ response time quicker and the department to be more versatile in emergencies, such as hurricanes.
Dalton said officers are allowed to take their assigned vehicle home, which means “they can be on duty as soon as they cross the causeway.” He added that the assigned vehicles have also saved a great deal of time in sanitizing pool vehicles before each driver change due to the pandemic – even though the plan was put in place long before COVID-19.
While the plan does call for more vehicles to be purchased, it is less money in the long term as the vehicles will last longer for the department. Dalton said the average pool vehicle would last two to three years before needing to be replaced. And the assigned vehicles should provide five to seven years of usage.
Dalton said many local police departments have moved to the assigned vehicle system with success and cost savings. Under the leasing plan, the vehicles are paid off in four years and the city can then buy them for $1 each.
A new Ford Police Interceptor or an upgraded Ford Explorer costs approximately $30,000 with about $35,000 worth of equipment and modifications installed locally. Lights, roll cage, computers and radios are after-factory add-ons, and the Interceptors have enhanced steering, brakes, suspension, tires and battery power.
Police department pickup trucks used by the traffic division and cars used by parking control will exhibit the new color scheme – selected by a committee of officers – as they are replaced in the future.