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FPD, impacted by Ford’s ban, on hold in order of 13 cars

FPD, impacted by Ford’s ban, on hold in order of 13 cars
BY KATE WARD Northwest Arkansas Times

Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2005

URL: http://www.nwanews.com/story/nwat/24354

Although a resolution was passed during a City Council meeting Tuesday night authorizing the Fayetteville Police Department to purchase 13 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors, the ban Ford previously put on sales of its cars to Arkansas government agencies still stands. "We’ve placed an order and we’re getting on the list," said City Attorney Kit Williams. "We aren’t signing any waivers or anything."

Washington County, along with other Arkansas law enforcement agencies, were placed on Ford Motor Co. ’s blacklist in late December, meaning the vehicle manufacturer is refusing to sell them police cars because Attorney General Mike Beebe started investigating the automaker. "If Ford doesn’t lift the ban, I don’t know what we’ll do," Williams said. "I guess we will cross that bridge when we get to it."

Beebe’s office contends that many of the features in Ford’s Crown Victoria Police Interceptor are marketed as being "police level," when in fact they are identical to the civilian Crown Victoria. "We haven’t seen anything that indicates to us that we’re not getting what we thought we were," said David Bragg, fleet operations superintendent.

On Nov. 19, Jim DePriest, a senior assistant attorney general in Beebe’s office, sent an email to about 50 officials working for attorneys general in other states, asking them whether they wanted to participate in an investigation of Ford.

Ford sent a letter Dec. 15 to all Ford dealers in Arkansas saying that effective immediately, "Ford Motor Company has initiated a No Sales policy for the [Crown Victoria police car] to government accounts in the state of Arkansas."

The Crown Victoria is the standard police cruiser used by most law enforcement agencies in Arkansas and other states.

Williams said there are other police cruisers for officers to fall back on if they must, but most officers, he said, prefer the Crown Victoria. "There aren’t many larger vehicles with rear wheel drive," he said. "The main difference between the civilian and the police level Crown Victoria is that the police level vehicle has an increased ability to handle electrical equipment such as lap tops. It also has increased suspension."

Bragg said the Chevy Impala has been an option in the past as an alternative police cruiser, but the vehicle is significantly smaller. "I don’t think we would be able to fit two officers and a computer in there," he said. "That’s why we haven’t gone to an alternative car at this point."

Because of the large investment that has been put into the Crown Victoria, Bragg said a plan B has not been brought up. "I guess hope is the best word we’ve got," he said. "We hope that by the time we get through the entire process, they will have worked something out. Further down the road, if there is still a road block, then we will have to come up with a plan B."

Ford has since conducted a side-by-side test between the civilian Crown Victoria and the "police level" Crown Victoria. "We gathered a lot of information from the test," said Matt DeCample, a spokesperson for Beebe’s office. "Ford has been cooperative at providing us with information, but we are still continuing the investigation as we normally would."

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