Sheriff Steve Moore has asked county residents to visit the department website and pick the car they like most between pursuit versions of the Chevy Caprice and Ford Taurus.
“We’re having them choose which vehicle and graphics they want patrolling their neighborhood,” Sheriff’s spokesman Les Garcia said. “We want their input.”
The two cars are similar in body shape and graphics. The most obvious difference is the Caprice is all black, while the Taurus has white doors and the word “Sheriff” written backward on its windshield, so that it’s visible in a rearview mirror.
Garcia said once the votes are in, the winner will eventually replace the department’s fleet of 60 Crown Victorias.
The last Crown Victorias rolled off the Ford manufacturing line in September 2011.
According to a report by CNNMoney, the demand for fuel-efficient vehicles made for the end of the large, heavy cars that have been used by law enforcement for years.
Attempts by the Tracy Press to contact Ford officials this week were unsuccessful.
Since production of the Crown Victoria police interceptors ended a year ago this month, the sheriff’s department isn’t the only law enforcement agency facing the dilemma of replacing a fleet of patrol cars.
Tracy police and California Highway Patrol are also looking to purchase new makes and models.
According to Eric Lamoureux of the state department of general services, which is the purchasing arm for California government, the CHP has contracted with Ford for a sedan based on the Taurus and an SUV based on the Explorer. He said the replacement of hundreds of patrol cars across the state will be phased in as new cars are needed.
Although an SUV is an unusual choice for a patrol vehicle, Lamoureux said CHP cars are different from the average police car.
He said CHP cars must be able to carry 1,500 pounds of equipment, including radios, light bars and firearms. He said the SUV meets those weight requirements, with room for four fully equipped officers.
Many officers have only driven a Crown Victoria on patrol, and many admit being partial to the status quo.
“I prefer the Crown Victoria myself,” Tracy-area CHP spokesman Adam Shelton said. “I think it’s a great patrol car, but it’s not going to be there anymore. It’s been a quality vehicle for what it is. They’re a safe vehicle — they’ve been durable.”
Over the years, Shelton said the CHP has used other makes and models on patrol, including the Capri, Volvos, Camaros, and Mustangs, but none have patrolled the roadways as long or as frequently as the Crown Victoria.
The Tracy Police Department will eventually need to replace its cars, but delayed the day of reckoning with a purchase of 10 Crown Victoria police interceptors before Ford stopped production, according to Lt. Dave Sant.
He said two of the old patrol cars are having equipment stripped and placed into one of the new Crown Victorias. The first of those cars is expected to hit the streets in three weeks.
“We’re doing two (cars) at a time,” Sant said. “Replacing the 2006-2007 (cars) with the 2011 models, they’ll look identical to what we have now.”
The 10 cars will be phased in as needed, Sant said. After that, department officials will begin discussions about replacements for their fleet of 31 patrol cars. Since Tracy patrol cars are similar to CHP, he said imagines the department will watch closely what vehicles pass the CHP test.
“It’s too early to look at replacements,” Sant said. “We knew they wouldn’t make the Crown Victoria forever. Many of the components (molded rear seats, cages and push bars) don’t fit different car models, and it can cost $3,500 to $7,000 more to make it fit … (We’ll) see what can and can’t be translated into the new models.”
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or email@example.com.
At a glance
•s To vote on a new vehicle for the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department, visit at www.sjsheriff.org.