News 5 Guardians

Feb 10, 2014 9:10 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Guardians: Police cruisers potentially putting officers and public at risk

When you call 9-1-1 for police, you expect an officer to arrive in minutes.

What if they can't? What if the patrol car the officer is in, breaks down?

To prevent that from happening, law enforcement agencies have end-of-life cycle policies for their cruisers. News 5 uncovers flaws with those policies that are potentially putting your safety and the safety of officers at risk.

"Our main concern is to have an unsafe vehicle out there and cause a liability to one of our officers, employees, or public," Colorado Springs Police Department logistics support manager Joe Curro said.

To ensure vehicles are safe during daily operations, the police department has a vehicle replacement policy, similar to other departments across the State of Colorado.

"It's a 4-year/90,000 mile criteria when we start looking at vehicles for replacement," he said.

News 5 discovered a large number of those cars don't end up getting replaced, at least not immediately. Currently, there are 119 cars that have "met or exceeded" their end of life cycle.

That's about 20-percent of the entire fleet.

"We just don't change vehicles because they meet the criteria," Curro said. "We look at what the mechanics recommend."

In fact, the Colorado Springs Police Department has a car from 1995 still in operation. That's 15 years past its replacement date, according to CSPD's own policy.

We asked Springs police about this discrepancy. We were told its "end of life" cycle policies are simply "recommendations," not requirements.

It's at Curro's discretion to determine whether a car gets replaced.

"My biggest worry is that I make a decision to keep it (a cruiser) in the fleet and then there's a catastrophic failure," he said.

Curro has to take a gamble, choosing which cars need to be phased out. New patrol units are purchased with public tax dollars that come from the general and public safety sales tax fund.

In order to access that money, Police Chief Pete Carey has to send a request to Mayor Steve Bach who then turns the request over to council to vote on.

This year, the Colorado Springs Police Department received approval to purchase 52 vehicles. That will replace about half of the vehicles which have exceeded age or mileage recommendations.

In Pueblo, the police department looks at replacing vehicles that are in-service for more than 3 years. As for mileage, there's no replacement policy according to their handbook.

In response to our inquiry and prior to sitting down with News 5, the Pueblo Police Department writes:

"We know from experience that vehicles that exceed 100,000 miles have safety concerns/issues and cost us a great deal more to maintain than a low-mileage vehicle."

News 5 learned more than 40-percent of the Department's vehicles exceed 100,000 miles. When it comes to replacing these cars, unlike the Colorado Springs Police Department, the Pueblo PD doesn't have a certain amount of funding set aside.

"The City of Pueblo has relied and continues to rely on government forfeitures," Sgt. Eric Gonzales said. "The money that is allocated can differ from year-to-year based on whatever type of incidents, calls, or narcotic violations we get."

According to the Pueblo Police Department, there are no plans to buy any additional vehicles in 2014. However, they have budgeted $200,000 this year for maintenance and repairs which Gonzales believes will be enough to keep the existing fleet on the street.

"We want to make sure that the officer is going to be safe and not get into any wrecks," Gonzales said. "For the public safety, we have to make sure that the car is running and doing its job so that if we need to get to a call in a hurry, we can get there safely."

 

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