GETTING WHERE YOU WANT TO GO

Agencies are finding alternatives to the squad car can help them navigate the community.


Pushing the benefits

Oakland County's experience is typical — agencies are finding these kinds of devices not only reduce measurable costs, such as fuel, but also help officers do their jobs more efficiently and faster — as Arthur can attest. The process servers that work Arlington's downtown area have to contend with heavy traffic and, subsequently, parking issues.

"Parking patrol cars can be a problem," she explains. "You have to park, walk, move the car again and struggle to find more parking. Now, officers transport the Segways to the area they're working, park the car in one spot and can serve the whole area without having to move the car. They can even take them inside the building. Officers love them. It speeds up the whole serving process."

There is also the better access these machines offer, says Pettine "They can go where larger vehicles, and even golf carts or ATVs, can't," he says. "They're especially valuable in emergencies in areas not easily accessible to vehicles. Officers can respond much faster on these than on foot."

And they don't get as tired, he adds, which offers decided advantages.

"We have a lot of shoplifting in the malls," Pettine adds. "We've had criminal apprehensions in malls. The shoplifter got fatigued from running and the Chariot driver was not fatigued at all."

And then there's the PR value — they're almost as good as being on a horse in terms of the attention they attract. They make officers much more visible and approachable, say those interviewed.

"It's a very non-threatening look. And it's like a magnet for kids," says Pettine, who adds that the Plymouth Township PD uses its Chariots as a PR tool, for example, riding in parades, escorting Santa and handing out candy at Halloween.

Gollotti agrees. "The Segway HTs broke down the barriers between our officers in vehicles and the community, taking our community policing initiatives to an entirely new level," he says.

Better yet they increase man-power without actually putting more officers on the beat. "We are learning more every day about how law enforcement is using these vehicles," says Jim Murphy, director of business development for American Chariot Company. "A lot of people tell us the Chariot is a force multiplier," he says. "They may have one Chariot and one officer, but it allows that officer to do the work of three. It allows you to get more out of your officers."

Other ways to move

Gasoline-powered vehicles, such as ATVs and personal watercraft (PWC), step in where patrol vehicles cannot and are essential components of many law enforcement fleets. Also, don't overlook the more unusual ones, such as the aforementioned armored device.

The decision to purchase these other types of "non-traditional vehicles" can be an easier one to make because the need may be far more apparent. If a department has many miles of beach area, extremely rugged terrain or waterways to patrol, and no other agency to provide the service, it becomes a simple decision. The need for an armored device will be apparent in the type of calls it handles and the support it provides to other nearby agencies. And as for EVs, primary considerations are a department's objectives — reducing fuel costs and emissions are the most common — and for what (non-patrol) purposes they can be used.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office loves the benefits its PWC bring to the department. Officers use PWC to patrol parts of the Colorado River as well as several lakes, says Corp. Dave Burgess. The sheriff's office has eight to 12 PWC from Honda, acquired through a dealer loan program.

"They're great for maneuvering in large groups of people and accessing areas boats can't go," says Burgess. In spite of the PWC's size, he is able to stow a rescue jacket, ropes, other water rescue equipment, and personal items and police gear on board.

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