Cedar Rapids Police Officers Adjusting to Differences in New Patrol Cars
By Jeff Raasch and Jill Kasparie, Reporters
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – While the Cedar Rapids Police Department transitions to a new model of patrol cars, officers reaching for the gear shift might mistakenly activate the windshield wipers.
Some habits will have to be broken as the department moves to Chevrolet Caprice PPVs – police patrol vehicles – and away from the Ford Crown Victoria, the model the department has used for the last 15 or 20 years. From the officer’s perspective, there are more similarities than differences, but one change is the location of the gear shift – it’s on the steering column in the Ford and on the console in the Chevy.
Many police departments around the country were forced to find a different model of patrol car when Ford decided to stop production on the Crown Victoria last year. A team of Cedar Rapids police and fleet services staff picked the Caprice after comparing it to the Dodge Charger and Ford’s new Police Interceptor.
The first Caprice patrol car debuted in Cedar Rapids in late April, and currently three Caprices are included in the police department’s 66-car fleet. City officials have set a goal to have 72 Caprices on the streets by 2017.
Investigator John McDaniel, one of the department’s driving instructors, said the Caprices are equipped with 6.0-liter V-8 engines and accelerate quicker than the Crown Victorias. He said the steering is tighter, and the wider wheelbase helps with handling.
Reviews have been mixed within the department, McDaniel said, but some officers who have tested the Caprices have raved about their performance during training sessions.
“They are amazed at the differences of their driving capability,” McDaniel said.
Dennis Hogan, the city’s fleet services manager, said seven Caprice patrol cars and three unmarked detective cars were purchased at about $27,000 each and arrived late last year. He said it costs an additional $16,000 to $20,000 to buy equipment for the car and have it installed.
The 10 Caprice PPVs were purchased through a state of Iowa bid from Karl Chevrolet in Ankeny and are paid for using money from the city’s general fund.
Several components – including computers, video cameras, radar units, gun racks and partitions – must be installed in the new cars once they arrive in Cedar Rapids. Hogan said the past several months have been spent testing and getting feedback from officers to determine the ideal locations for all the equipment.
Once a template is in place, Hogan said the turnaround time from arrival to deployment on the streets should only take a week or two.
“We’re dangerously close to that optimal set up right now,” Hogan said. “We’ve done a lot of the fine-tuning.”
The Cedar Rapids police department ran only Chevrolet police cars in the mid-1980s before the transition to the Ford Crown Victoria, McDaniel said. The patrol fleet had been all “Crown Vics,” as they are known, until the first Caprice hit the streets this spring.
Driving training is emphasized in the police academy, and uniformed officers go through two sessions of driving training per year. Sgt. Cristy Hamblin, a police spokeswoman, said that training will now include adjusting to the Caprice.
“This is their office,” Hamblin said. “They have to know how to make it run efficiently and make it work.”
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