The Yuma Police Department will soon roll out a fleet of new patrol vehicles designed to eventually replace the iconic but aging and gas guzzling Ford Crown Victoria sedan.
The sleek new vehicles are Ford Utility Interceptors (FUI). They are similar to a Ford Explorer, but have been heavily modified with a bevy of instruments and equipment suited for law enforcement activities.
The FUI, called the “flagship” of the YPD patrol fleet, has slick black and white decals that replace the traditional blue and white design of older YPD interceptors.
The new design was created at the request of the officers who will take the new police interceptors out onto the streets.
Capt. Rod Hamilton of the YPD Field Services Division is confident the new vehicle is something “the citizens will be proud to see and the officers will be proud to drive,” he said, adding the design shows YPD is a “contemporary police force with traditional ties.”
The new patrol vehicles were acquired by the city of Yuma in March and are now ready to enter police service in the next few weeks. In advance of the rollout, a new FUI was unveiled Thursday morning at YPD headquarters.
YPD, in cooperation with the city of Yuma Fleet Services, evaluated several vehicles before pursuing the FUI as the replacement vehicle for the department's aging fleet of patrol cars, which include some commissioned as far back as 1995.
Each FUI costs about $59,000 and is fully outfitted with law enforcement equipment including an in-car video camera system and laptop computer, along with all required safety equipment. The camera system is automatically activated when the lights and emergency sirens are turned on.
The city of Yuma purchased 11 of the vehicles as part of a contract with the Bill Alexander Ford dealership, which won a competitive bid. The vehicles were then equipped by Arizona Emergency Products based in Tempe.
The FUI “doesn't look cluttered ... but actually it has a massive amount of electronics and technology in it,” Hamilton said.
The FUI has several improvements over the Crown Victoria.
According to Ford, the FUI boasts a 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 engine with a six-speed transmission compared to the 250-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8 engine with a four-speed transmission found in a Crown Victoria.
The FUI also has all wheel drive. The Crown Victoria only has rear wheel drive.
Despite the additional horsepower and all wheel drive, the FUI is designed to get between 14 to 21 miles per gallon (mpg) compared to the Crown Victoria's 9.7 mpg, Hamilton noted, adding that translates into less money spent on gas by YPD.
“That translates right back to savings for the taxpayer.”
The FUI also includes more head room for the driving officer and more space for anyone sitting in the front passenger seat. The passenger seat in a Crown Victoria is cramped because much of the electronic equipment used by police is jammed behind or under the seat.
“When you do that, that limits the ability of that seat to move,” Hamilton said.
The equipment cannot be placed in the trunk of the sedan because it could not withstand the high temperatures associated with the scorching Yuma summers.
But the same equipment can be placed in the cargo area of the utility interceptor because air-conditioning vents have been installed to keep the machinery cool, which opens up the front passenger area.
Those under arrest and placed in the rear seats will also have much more space, especially for their feet.
“One of the issues that has always plagued police departments is trying to put people into a back seat that is really not made to have people handcuffed or who are aggressive toward us,” Hamilton said. “With this vehicle, because it does have a larger back seat to start with ... we were able to get a prisoner transport system that really allows us to put any sized person back there ... and the ability to do that with ease.”
Another big improvement for officers on the road who may enter hostile situations is the placement of both a shotgun and a military style semi-automatic rifle on a gun rack next to the front seat. In a Crown Victoria, those weapons are kept locked up in a safe in the trunk.
“Years ago, because of the airbag compliance issues that came out, we could no longer mount the shotguns up on the front dash,” Hamilton said.
“The only other option was to put them in a trunk. If an officer pulled up to a scenario that was very dynamic and they had to get to that rifle immediately, it required them to exit the vehicle, go all the way around to the trunk area, physically open the trunk and key in a keypad that unlocked the trunk vault.”
With the weapons at the ready in the front of the FUI, “the officers can get those weapons out very quickly,” Hamilton continued. “They now have a choice of having a shotgun or a rifle, depending on what situation is presented to them. I can tell you that the movement of the rifle up front was something the officers were very vocal about.”
Before choosing a new vehicle, YPD officials worked with their patrol officers to determine what would best aid them in their mission to protect and serve.
“When we were designing these vehicles, we went right to the officers,” Hamilton said.
“Once they told us what they were looking for – more room, weapon systems available up front – then we moved forward in picking” a vehicle.
YPD was in constant communication with the employees at Bill Alexander Ford when designing and purchasing the new vehicles.
“We worked very closely with” Hamilton, said Matt Wilhelmy, Bill Alexander Ford Fleet sales manager. “We put a lot of hours into this. It is a very nice looking vehicle. The black and white is very basic, but it is a good look for the car, I think. They did a really good job on the design of it. I can't wait to see them out there on the road.”
Working with YPD and the city of Yuma was “a matter of pride for us,” Wilhelmy added, noting he was pleased the city spent tax dollars within the city instead of elsewhere.
“We like that. We like building a relationship with the city of Yuma. We have never done a project with them before like this. I hope to do a lot more of them in the next couple of years with the city.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.