EAST PROVIDENCE — Following a chaotic week involving its fleet of cruisers, one which had six vehicles suffer damage of varying degrees, the East Providence Police Department is moving ahead with a plan to purchase new patrol cars using some of the $60 million it has access to from the noted Google Asset Forfeiture settlement.
When the plan is fully implemented, according to Sergeant Michael Grant, the EPPD will have replaced anywhere between 20 and 20 vehicles. Sgt. Grant directs the department’s Fleet Operations and Traffic Unit. He is currently putting a so-called “master plan” into place, which he is expected to present to the East Providence Budget Commission for approval at its next meeting Thursday, Dec. 13.
Sgt. Grant estimates using about $250,000 in Google money. Implementation of the plan would be done over the next several months. The vehicles to be purchased will likely be either Ford Taurus sedans or Explorer SUVs. Sgt. Grant said he is leaning towards purchasing mostly Explorers. The Tauruses, he explained, are more compact than the Crown Victoria model they would replace. He believes the Explorer, which is built on the same frame as the Taurus, is a more versatile vehicle.
“They cost the same. They’re built on the same chassis. They have a little more torque. It’s a more flexible car. We can use it in more ways,” Sgt. Grant said, explaining his rationale for buying the SUVs over the sedans.
Sgt. Grant and the department get a chance to test out that theory soon when an Explorer Interceptor SUV, which the Commission approved the purchase of at its Nov. 29 meeting, is inserted into the rotation as a replacement for one of the six cars recently lost.
The vehicle was bought from Imperial Municipal Partners, a specialty dealership in Milford, Mass. that submitted the low bid, for about $34,500.
There’s a chance a SUV would have been less susceptible to some of the damage the current crop of squad cars suffered recently, though nothing likely could have prevented what occurred to six of the nine front-line cruisers in the EPPD fleet.
The hectic sequence began took place during a roughly 12-hour span on Nov. 24. It started Saturday when a shoplifter attempting to flee the scene of the alleged crime rammed a cruiser called to the site.
Later in the evening, four cruisers were damaged when police responded to a robbery at gunpoint at the Domino’s Pizza Shop on Pawtucket Avenue. The suspect in the incident attempted to elude police first on foot then by commandeering a squad car. He eventually damaged it and two others before a fourth was used to bring the one the suspect was driving to a halt.
Foraging parts off of spares in the car pool, one of the vehicles damaged was quickly put back into service. Another, the one that suffered the most in pursuit of the Domino’s thief, was damaged beyond reasonable repair but will be bought back from the insurance company at a cost of $400 to be cannibalized for parts in the future.
A week to the day, Dec. 1, the sixth cruiser was damaged following response by police to an accident on Warren Avenue. A driver, believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel, ran over a utility pole. The squad car was later hit by another driver in a separate incident.
With so many front-line cruisers out of service, the department dipped into its pool of four, older spares. There was also a need to use vehicles from its Traffic Control and Community Policing units.
“I’ve never seen a situation like this,” Sgt Grant said of losing six cruisers in such a short period of time. “I’ve never lost five cars in one day. We were able to get two back in service by the following Tuesday. That’s why we have the spares and that’s why we keep the wrecks around. We use insurance and asset forfeiture money, but we still try to keep the costs down.”