Crown Vic is debated for sheriff
Posted on Tue, Oct. 28, 2003
Crown Vic is debated for sheriff
By Amie Streater
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
A controversial proposal to purchase 21
Ford Crown Victoria police cruisers could
force Tarrant County commissioners today
to weigh safety, cost and a lack of patrol
Despite concerns that the "police
interceptor" patrol cars may be unsafe in
rear-end collisions, commissioners will
consider purchasing the vehicles for the
sheriff's department and other law
enforcement divisions for more than
Some Tarrant County officials say they are
comfortable buying Crown Victorias.
What remains to be seen is whether that
comfort level is shared by commissioners.
At least one commissioner says she'll vote
against the purchase, and another raised concerns earlier this year when
the issue came before the court.
Sheriff Dee Anderson said he prefers that the county purchase Ford
Expeditions, but will defer to the commissioners' judgment.
Commissioners must weigh several factors in making their decision:
• There are few options on the market for police agencies needing
rear-wheel-drive, full-size vehicles.
• The Crown Victorias have a base price of $19,307, Anderson said, and
the Expeditions cost at least $10,000 more. Plus, sport-utility vehicles
have an added rollover risk.
• Since 1983, 14 law enforcement officers driving Crown Victorias have
died in rear-end collisions when the cars' gas tanks ruptured and caught
One of those fires killed Dallas police officer Patrick Metzler. Dallas has
sued Ford and has stopped buying Crown Victorias, and other police
agencies have taken a hard look at whether they should continue buying
the popular cruisers.
Ford currently controls about 80 percent of the police cruiser market,
company spokeswoman Kristen Kinley said Monday.
The automaker has made safety improvements to the Crown Victorias
and plans to add a fire suppression system to the cruisers for its 2005
"It has always been our position that the vehicle is safe," Kinley said. Ford
believes that the problems with the Crown Victorias are "due to increased
exposure of high-speed, rear-end impacts that police are exposed to,"
The risks are too high for Commissioner Marti VanRavenswaay, who said
Monday that she plans to vote against the purchase.
"I think it is still a risky proposition," VanRavenswaay said. "Until the
investigation [of the Crown Victoria's safety] is completed, until we have
a definitive answer -- yes or no -- I am not supportive of the continued
purchases of Crown Victorias."
Commissioner Dionne Bagsby could not be reached to comment Monday,
but earlier this year she questioned the county's purchase of Crown
Commissioners Glen Whitley and J.D. Johnson said Monday they planned
to vote in favor of the purchase.
"I think everybody has looked at it and they are aware of concerns out
there, but there are not really a whole lot of other alternatives," Whitley
Whitley said he would support the wishes of the Sheriff's Department and
the county transportation department.
"If they feel like that is what they need and they are aware of the
concerns and problems, then I am going to support them," he said.
"There is really not an alternative out there."
Johnson said the concerns of those driving the vehicles would play a big
role in his decision.
"I don't want employees driving something they feel is unsafe," Johnson
said. "If they feel comfortable driving them, I feel comfortable buying
Johnson said the county's options are limited.
"It appears Ford has taken care of the problems with the gas tank, so I
am flexible," he said. "It is the only full-size police package on the
market. I don't know of any car that is not going to have a problem being
hit at 60 miles an hour from the rear."
Anderson will probably make a case today for the purchase of Ford
Expeditions, at least for patrol officers, who may be more likely to
encounter dangerous driving speeds and unsafe road conditions than an
officer serving warrants.
"I don't think you can be in law enforcement and not be concerned about
it," Anderson said of the Crown Victoria's safety record. "But are my
concerns overriding where I would refuse to drive them? No.
"We will drive what the commissioners choose to buy," he said. "But with
the current climate and as much concern as there is, I personally would
be more comfortable moving away from them for the time being."
County Purchasing Agent Jack Beacham said he talked to many
purchasing agents at a recent conference who were putting Crown
Victorias back on the "buy" list.
"There is always going to be a concern when you purchase any vehicle,"
he said. "But there is no viable alternative. It is the only full-size,
rear-wheel-drive [police cruiser] in production."
Tarrant County's experience with Crown Victorias has been positive so
far, said county fleet manager Joylee Moore.
"We have not had any trouble with the Crown Vics," she said. "We've
tried to keep on top of recalls and technical service bulletins to keep them
"They are real serviceable, and they have proven to be a viable tool for
Moore said she hopes commissioners approve the purchase today.
"I hope they feel comfortable in passing it," she said. "Our alternatives
are pretty slim to none."