Marco police trading low-riding cars for flood-savvy SUVs
By BILLY BRUCE, Staff Writer
March 3, 2004
When a flood swamped Marco Island roads during late rainy season last September, Marco Island police Chief Roger Reinke took his unmarked patrol car to see which roads had become impassable.
His low-riding Ford Crown Victoria couldn't handle the flooded conditions, however, and Reinke had no choice but to return to the police station to bum a ride from Marco fire Chief Mike Murphy.
Murphy drives a sport utility vehicle issued to him by the Fire Department.
Situations such as that one, Reinke said, have led the city Police Department to trade in some of the force's Crown Victoria patrol cars for the higher- riding SUVs.
Marco's vulnerability to flooding during heavy summer rains produces busy times for city police, who have to answer dozens of calls from stranded motorists or those who've been in car accidents.
Bring on the SUVs, the chief said.
"People may see more police officers driving more Ford Explorers on the island," Reinke said. "Last year we started putting more SUVs in the fleet. We probably won't get rid of all the Crown Victorias, because they are faster, and although the department has a policy against high-speed pursuits, a situation could arise in which we'd need that speed."
The SUVs are comparable in price to the Crown Victorias and get about the same gas mileage. The SUVs have a 6-cylinder engine while the Crown Victorias have an 8-cylinder engine, he said.
Reinke produced receipts for a 2003 Explorer the department purchased for $20,957 and a 2003 Crown Victoria it purchased for $20,646. The department bought the vehicles from Tamiami Ford in Naples.
Reinke also offered receipts for a 2004 Explorer that cost $20,278.
Reinke now drives a 2004 Explorer — white and unmarked.
He transferred his unmarked Crown Victoria to Marco police Detective Kevin Hennings.
In 2003, the department traded two Crown Victorias for two Explorers, and in 2004, it traded two more Crown Victorias for three Explorers. The city police fleet now consists of six Explorers and five Crown Victorias.
Normally the department will use a vehicle until it gets near 100,000 miles in use, then it's traded for a new vehicle. At 100,000 miles, the maintenance and repair bills on the patrol vehicles get too high to justify keeping them, Reinke said. The vehicles lose their reliability, a must in the law enforcement field.
Another must, Reinke said, is for police officers to be able to get to emergency scenes.
"The SUVs sit higher and give officers a broader profile when on patrol. The officers can see better too," Reinke said.
"SUVs can carry more equipment as well. But there are advantages to the Crown Victorias, such as the speed capability, so I don't think we'd trade all of them in at this point.
We normally try to get two new vehicles each budget year. So we'll try to evaluate both vehicles for viability and operational costs."
The SUVs also seem to last longer than the Crown Victorias, Reinke said. "They're built with trucklike packages, and they have heavy-duty radiators and alternators," he said.
After the initial purchase from the dealer, a private contractor details the department insignia on the vehicles. Then a company in Naples outfits them with standard equipment, including prisoner cages, emergency lights, radios and computers, the chief said.
"We were borrowing vehicles from the Fire Department, and some of the officers were even using their own private vehicles just so they could carry out patrols during flood situations," Reinke said. "The Police Department has to be able to get to the places we're called for public safety. It's just unacceptable to use vehicles that won't let us carry out our mission to serve the public."