Yeah, but weird. Try 33 new SUV's.

Police trading sedans for SUVs

Department heads says SUVs add equipment space, have higher resale value

12:30 AM CST on Monday, January 1, 2007

By JAKE BATSELL / The Dallas Morning News

An emblem of soccer moms is becoming the vehicle of choice for more police officers.
[Click image for a larger version] JIM MAHONEY/DMN
Highland Park Officer Tim Lednicky shows two of the department's patrol vehicles, all of which now are SUVs.

Despite rising gas prices, police departments throughout North Texas are switching out patrol sedans for roomier SUVs.

Plano is buying 33 Chevrolet Tahoes for $1 million, joining Frisco, Coppell and Highland Park in converting part or all of their patrol car fleets to SUVs.

"They're becoming much more popular as police vehicles," Plano Police Chief Greg Rushin said.

At $30,427 apiece, the Tahoes are nearly $9,000 more expensive than the Ford Crown Victoria sedans Plano bought last year.

The higher price tag drew the notice of Dwayne Clark, a Plano resident and fiscal watchdog.

"Why do we need such a huge vehicle to carry around one, possibly two people?" Mr. Clark asked at a recent City Council meeting. "They're not going to the grocery store, they're not carrying a bunch of kids with them."

But police departments statewide upgrading to SUVs say officers need more room for a growing array of equipment, like computers, cameras, traffic cones and fiberglass prisoner transport seats.

"They're looking for some way to keep up with the amount of equipment that people are putting in," said James McLaughlin Jr., executive director of the Texas Police Chiefs Association.

In Plano, which has 145 marked police vehicles, the 33 SUVs will make up about one-fourth of the city's patrol fleet. Supervisors and K-9 units have used SUVs for years, but this year will mark their debut as patrol cars.

Supporters say the Tahoes are a prudent investment because SUVs have a higher resale value than sedans and will protect electronic equipment from overheating in trunks. Plano's Tahoes also will carry a 5-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and department officials expect the SUVs to last a year longer than sedans.

Taking those factors into consideration, the financial impact will be "break-even at the worst," Plano police spokesman Rick McDonald said.

"When you first look at it, you're like, 'Oh my gosh, we're going to Tahoes, that's going to be a lot of money," Officer McDonald said. "But when you look at it on paper, it looks like we're going to be making some money on the deal."

Changing to SUVs will hurt the fleet's gas mileage a bit. The newest police Tahoes average 15 city miles per gallon, compared with 17 city miles per gallon for the Crown Victorias.

Highland Park and University Park both converted police fleets to SUVs several years ago. In Highland Park, where police officers are also trained as firefighters and paramedics, hauling three jobs' worth of gear was a key reason for the switch.

"Our guys like them," said Highland Park Detective Randy Millican. "We would have a hard time going back, I think."

Addison, however, is returning to sedans after six years of using Dodge Durango SUVs. Police officials there said the SUVs were becoming too expensive to maintain, so the city recently ordered 12 Dodge Chargers from a line developed specifically for police work.

"They believed that a vehicle that was specially designed to be a police vehicle would have more durability than the SUVs, which were civilian vehicles that they had equipped as police cars," said David Margulies, an Addison police spokesman.

In Dallas, police use Tahoes for tactical and K-9 units, but the city is sticking with sedans for its patrol fleet. Dallas has 50 Dodge Chargers on the way.

Section fleet manager John Ryzman said Dallas has more than 700 patrol cars, which makes upgrading to SUVs a pricey proposition.

"It's mainly the cost issue," Mr. Ryzman said.