Sweet Home police return to Crown Vic, drop Impalas

The Sweet Home Police Department has returned to the Ford Crown Victoria as its wheels of choice, putting two new patrol cars on Aug. 12 and 13.

The cars will replace a Chevrolet Impala, although not the oldest, and the last remaining Crown Victoria.

Sweet Home police switched to the Impalas in 2005 in an effort to save money. The oldest Impala, a white one, remains in service, driven by the school resource officer.

After the delivery of its first Impala, the department also changed the color of its patrol cars to silver. The new Crown Vics continue with the silver paint scheme.

The city purchased the vehicles on a three-year lease, said Sgt. Jason Van Eck. After three years the city will own the vehicles.

The lease program is supposed to save money, he said. The patrol cars cost around $30,000.

Before the arrival of the new patrol cars, the department had one car with around 50,000 miles and another with around 90,000. Everything else is above 100,000 miles.

“The mileage, all of the sudden the last two years, has gone up,” Van Eck said. He doesn’t know the cause, but the department is normally able to keep its fleet up with one new patrol car per year.

On occasion, the department has had to skip a year for budget reasons and then purchase two vehicles to catch up on its rotation.

“We’re going back into the Crown Vics because Chevy made some changes in the Impalas,” Van Eck said. Chevrolet moved the shifter off the column to the middle console, putting it in the way of the patrol car’s light controls, radio equipment and the patrol vehicle’s laptop.

The Crown Victoria costs about $2,500 more than the Impala, and it is a little roomier, Van Eck said. It has more horsepower and should generally outperform the Impalas.

Officers also will have to adjust from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive, he said. That will change the way they turn corners.

The Impalas’ mileage is probably a couple of miles per gallon better, Van Eck said.

The problem with the Crown Victoria is that Ford will end production next year, Van Eck said. The department will be able to order one more before that point. After that, it will have to look at other options, such as the Ford 500.

One of the patrol cars will be used by the traffic team, Van Eck said. It includes a camera and radar unit purchased through a grant.

Of the two cars moving out of the patrol fleet, the Impala will be surplus while the 2003 Crown Victoria will be stripped and converted to a training and court vehicle.