There are certain things only a patrol vehicle can do. Then there are other tasks for which they are not so well-suited — ones that alternative modes of transportation, such as electric vehicles (EV,) scooters and transporters, ATVs, utility vehicles (UV), personal watercraft (PWC), even one-man armored devices can perform more efficiently and cost effectively.
Electric vehicles in particular are getting a lot of attention these days, thanks to the dual concerns over rising gas prices and emissions, says Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA), a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to the promotion of electric drive transportation. According to Wynne, inquires to the association have quintupled in the last year, many coming from all manner of fleet operators, including law enforcement agencies.
"Although there are limitations of speed and range, EVs can perform some law enforcement functions currently being covered by large sedans," he says. "They have all the proper lighting and safety features, and have zero fuel consumption. You can plug them into a normal outlet. They're quiet, and operate very well off-road. They also do well in areas trying to reduce emissions in order to maintain federal funding. And," Wynne adds, "there is certainly goodwill associated with these vehicles."
Melissa Brandao, national sales and marketing director for Zap Personal Transportation Technologies, points out that reducing greenhouse emissions is a key reason city fleets across the country are making it a policy to purchase more alternative fuel vehicles. "The scientific community is overwhelmingly warning about the effect of these emissions on global climate change. Sonoma County, California, has formed a countywide campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2010. Many other municipalities across the country are starting to adopt similar programs."
Taking a "new" ride
Unique, specialty vehicles are being incorporated into law enforcement fleets for all the above reasons. Here's a review of some ways agencies are using these vehicles.
- In Plymouth Township, Pennsylvania, the police department relies on four Chariots PTVs — a three-wheeled, Personal Transportation Vehicle — to patrol bike and walking paths, park and recreation areas, parking lots, and even inside shopping malls (the vehicle can fit through a standard door width), says Chief Carmen Pettine.
- The Arlington County (Virginia) Sheriff's Office purchased two battery-operated Segway PTs — a two-wheeled Personal Transporter — last fall, and started using them this spring to serve civil processes in its downtown area, says Sheriff Beth Arthur.
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's Drexel University Department of Public Safety counts hybrid patrol cars and SUVs, 25 bikes, three Segways, and four Chariots among its vehicle fleet, says Bernard Gollotti, senior associate vice president.
- Albuquerque, New Mexico, police use two Segways to patrol the downtown area as part of their community policing efforts, as well as for special events, says patrolman First Class, Jerome Armijo. He recalls how he once walked a 10-hour shift (even in the middle of summer). Now he covers the same area via battery power, is much less fatigued and able to respond to calls faster, he adds.
- The Oakland County (Michigan) Sheriff's Office relies on two Chariots to patrol the courthouse complex and provide security for special events, outdoor concerts and high school athletic events, says Capt. Chuck Snarey, who adds it plans to replace these with four new models in the near future.
The Chariots have taken over some of the functions once performed by patrol cars, says Snarey.
"They save a lot of gas, as opposed to driving a patrol car around in the parking lot all day long," he explains. "Plus, we have a large area we're responsible for and limited resources. We only had a few cars designated to patrol this and also several officers on foot [these are the ones now using the Chariots]. Since the Chariots allow for better coverage of the area, we were able to take the patrol cars and put them to other uses."