published Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Police officers complain new cars too small for job


by Cliff Hightower
Chattanooga Police Department Fleet Service Manager Brian Kiesche, left, stands with City Councilman Jack Benson and Manuel Rico as Sgt. Craig Joel, right, makes a cargo comparison between the Crown Victoria and Focus on Tuesday after the council meeting.
Chattanooga Police Department Fleet Service Manager Brian Kiesche, left, stands with City Councilman Jack Benson and Manuel Rico as Sgt. Craig Joel, right, makes a cargo comparison between the Crown Victoria and Focus on Tuesday after the council meeting.
Photo by Tim Barber.

BY THE NUMBERS

$438,000: Amount of money in fuel savings this fiscal year by going to smaller city vehicles

30: Number of Ford Focuses given to Chattanooga police officers this year

8: Number of investigators who asked for larger cars

Source: Chattanooga

Standing in front of his city-issued Ford Focus on Tuesday, Chattanooga police Sgt. Craig Joel showed off the trunk of his car.

It overflowed with police equipment, almost spilling out onto the city street.

“There’s still more at the house,” Joel said. “I can’t carry all of it.”

Joel, vice president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, told the City Council on Tuesday that a fleet of Ford Focuses ordered by the city to give to police investigators does not fit the bill for the work officers routinely do. The cars are too tiny, and can’t hold enough of the equipment needed for officers to perform their jobs, he said.

Investigators using the Focuses don’t have enough room for their city-issued rifles and for stopsticks, Joel said.

“You don’t outfit a Winnebago and turn it into a firetruck,” Joel said. “A firetruck is a firetruck.”

Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield, disagreed with the use of the smaller vehicles.

“Most nonpatrol officers should not carry a rifle in their car,” he said. “That’s not their job.”

Joel, along with Chattanooga police Sgt. Toby Hewitt, asked the council to intervene and stop buying the smaller Ford Focuses in next fiscal year’s budget.

The city began buying the cars last year and equipped 30 police investigators with Ford Focuses, instead of the Ford Crown Victoria, said Paul Page, director of general services.

Eight investigators asked for bigger cars and their request was granted, he said.

So far, going to a more fuel-efficient automobile has saved $438,000 this year, he said.

He said the newer Ford Focuses coming out this year are roomier than last year’s models.

“They are a little bit bigger,” he said.

He said the interior was larger, but did not know about the trunk space.

Police Chief Bobby Dodd told the council members that he never heard about the city buying the cars until after the fact.

“I haven’t been consulted about any vehicle we’ve purchased,” Dodd said.

Council members were incredulous hearing that the police chief was never consulted.

“I would hope decisions of this magnitude would be made before the fact,” Councilwoman Carol Berz said.

Councilman Jack Benson said he was afraid for public safety with police officers equipped insufficiently for their needs.

“I wished you had come sooner,” he said. “I’m sorry this has gotten this far.”

Council members directed general services to consult with the police department on their next purchases.

Page said he would start taking bids for the fleet in the next two months.

8
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sangaree said...

whiners in blue? Never saw such a bunch of whiners.

June 15, 2011 at 5:14 p.m.
Selah said...

Go boys in blue...I think those individuals who put their lives on the line daily should always be a part of the decision making process in their jobs. The public is tried of those individuals who are not doing the hardwork daily making decisions for us who do the hardwork daily. HOW insulting that the police Mr. Dodds was not even consulted with this matter. Shame on the management in this issue. Who will hold management responsible???

June 15, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.
Legend said...

With today's technology there's really no longer any need for patrol and traffic cops anyway. Why have someone sitting on the side of the road for hours on end just to catch a speeder passing by when cameras can do the job better? Lesser interaction between citizen and cop could result in lesser lawsuits when cops go rogue too and beat up on citizen.

June 15, 2011 at 9:47 p.m.
rosebud said...

With all due respect...some of the officers are too large for their cars. But seriously...get 'em some big cars. They deserve 'em.

June 15, 2011 at 10:39 p.m.
bpqd said...

Having worn body armor and a lot of equipment in the military, I think the police have a legitimate gripe about these compact cars being too small to accommodate someone armored and equipped.

I weigh 165 pounds. I know I could not fit into a Ford Focus and drive it with body armor, rifle, pistol, cuffs, and paperwork.

On the job in the Army, I routinely had to wear such equipment in vehicles. Even HMMWVs were crowded. Their seating is much more generous than the step-down sponge cushion bucket seat of an economy class car.

Choosing these too small cars could also be a safety issue.

The seating could be so tight, I do not know if it is safe to wear full armor in a vehicle equipped with air bags and such tight clearance. It might actually be more hazardous to drive such a vehicle, depending on the tightness of the fit.

Rapid egress or ingress, to and from the vehicle, could be inhibited by the lower seating and the reduced swing of the doors.

Further, I am shocked that we would choose lightweight vehicles like these, due to their lack of protection. The lighter weight is accounted for by the vehicle's lighter mass. Notice the styrofoam packing in most civilian car bumpers.

When civilian cars are crashed for their safety ratings, they are put up against an equal mass. Most of our residents drive cars heavier than a Ford Focus. Ford F150s, SUVs, and Chevy Monte Carlos are common in this area. Either one would have a significant advantage in mass against a Ford Focus. This means the puny police vehicles and their occupants would be vulnerable to direct ramming.

Rifles and shotguns are key instruments for using nonlethal ammunition. Most nonlethal rounds launched from a firearm are bulkier items. By suggesting that officers not use long weapons, we're beginning to limit their ability to choose nonlethal munitions, like rubber bullets and rubber shotgun pellets and beanbag rounds, based on our choices of skimping on vehicle costs.

What about the backseat bulkheads and prisoner protection devices built into most police cars? Are we to expect that a compact car, once outfitted with the necessary fortifications, will be able to reasonably seat, safely, one of our local residents? As in, do we expect an obese, angry, drunk and recently arrested citizen to ride in the back of this thing? While our officers are responsible for their welfare and protection in custody?

It's obvious to me that the Mayor and his Staff need a Ride-Along tour in a Ford Focus.

Don't forget the ceramic plates in their vests.

June 16, 2011 at 10:05 p.m.
dave said...

Get OVER IT! perhaps what you need is to keep the old bigger cars and we can save the tax money instead of buying new luxury air conditioned rides for the City employees.

June 17, 2011 at 12:10 p.m.
carlosshane1477 said...

well if the cops need bigger cars it would not fit on some stiffed roads. But most of the cops cars model are fords that have bigger built than usual car cops. it just need more modification and car repair.

August 16, 2011 at 12:03 a.m.
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