Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 | 2 a.m.
What’s up with the vehicle fleet of Henderson police? Cops everywhere drive gas guzzlers that would otherwise be senior-citizen eye candy, but c’mon — do they really need a stable of all or mostly Hummer-sized SUVs? How does the department justify such super-sized vehicles?
The Ford Crown Victoria is the vehicle preferred by most of the nation’s police departments.
The Henderson Police Department uses the familiar sedans but about half of its patrol vehicles are Chevy Tahoes — once the preferred vehicle of the nation’s soccer moms.
The city justifies its decision this way:
Tahoes have more room for the several hundred pounds of equipment officers carry in their vehicles.
The SUVs also have the edge when Henderson PD rolls off road. “There have been instances when a Crown Victoria was taken off road and sustained damage to the undercarriage,” department spokesman Keith Paul said in a written statement.
As the department calculates it, gas mileage for the two models is about the same, ranging from 9.5 to 11 miles per gallon. (With the fact that the vehicles are stopping and starting frequently, idling, accelerating and decelerating often, the fuel mileage rate will be less than their equivalent civilian use, Paul says.) So that’s a wash.
The city pays more for a Tahoe, about $26,000 each, than a Crown Victoria, which costs about $22,000, but gets $6,000 more per vehicle when the department sells them.
There have been concerns about the Tahoes’ suitability to police work. SUVs generally have a higher center of gravity than sedans and that can lead to rollover crashes.
A 2001 report by the city’s Finance Department recommended the department stop using Tahoes because most of the SUVs aren’t designed for high-speed pursuits, making the city vulnerable to claims of negligence in the case of accidents.