By Thomas Tracy
Source New York Daily News
Siren-blaring SUVs — hybrids and all-electrics — are becoming a staple at New York City crime scenes as the NYPD gradually retires its traditional sedan-based vehicle fleet.
New all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E Sport Crossover Utility Vehicles, which were shown off at this year’s New York Auto Show, are among the vehicles expected to take the places of the four-door “police interceptor” sedans New Yorkers have seen on city roads for decades.
But the department isn’t ready for an all-electric fleet just yet — so it’s stocking up on hybrid Ford Explorer SUVs, said Robert Martinez, deputy commissioner of the NYPD’s support services bureau.
The SUVs have a number of advantages over the older sedans, including higher seats that give officers a better view when they respond to emergency calls, Martinez said. They also have more storage space and are roomier than the sedans. Anyone who has had the misfortune of riding in one will tell you the sedans have cramped back seats.
The Ford Explorers also have four-wheel drive, which will help cops respond to emergencies quicker in snow and stormy weather, Martinez said.
“Years ago when we only had cars with rear-wheel drive, we would have to put chains on our tires every time it snowed, which would lead to overtime costs,” Martinez said. “We no longer have that issue.”
One reason for the NYPD’s increased use of SUVs is that new police-rated sedans are disappearing from the market.
Ford Motor Company, which provides the NYPD and law enforcement agencies throughout the country with police vehicles, discontinued its Taurus line of sedans in 2019 and its Fusion line of sedans in 2020.
By then, the NYPD had already stocked up on interceptors. The department is maintaining them — but can’t replace them when they wear out.
Ford’s main U.S.-based rival, General Motors, has also stopped building sedans the NYPD and other departments consider suitable.
That means SUVs are the only new vehicles available to build up the NYPD fleet, department officials said.
The Ford Explorer SUVs making up an increasing proportion of the NYPD’s fleet are the “smallest vehicle that’s rated for police use,” said Martinez.
“The most important thing is that the vehicle meets the mission and that it’s safe for everybody,” Martinez told the Daily News. “Thank God we have something that is available. There are not a lot of choices out there.”
While New Yorkers already see more police SUVs rolling around the city, sedans for now make up most of the vehicles in the NYPD fleet, a department spokesman said.
As of Aug. 3, 428 NYPD sedans were still in operation responding to 9-1-1 calls — 549 more than the 2,879 SUVs the department has.
The department recently ordered 600 additional Ford Explorers, which will tip the scales in the SUVs’ favor, Martinez said.
The NYPD has over 6,300 police vehicles, according to the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services — the largest single group of vehicles in the city’s fleet of nearly 30,000.
The shift to an all-electric fleet is just getting underway.
In December, the city ordered 184 of the Ford Mustang Mach-E vehicles for the NYPD, the city Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Correction, and other city agencies with law enforcement vehicles.
The first wave of Mach-E vehicles arrived at the end of June, and 148 of the 184 vehicles are being outfitted for NYPD use, Martinez said.
The vehicles will help the NYPD determine how to go fully electric. One issue is finding the best spots for vehicle charging stations. Another issue is the vehicles’ range in patrol areas that vary widely in size.
“It’s a work in progress,” Martinez said. “We have precincts that are 1 square mile and precincts that are 20 square miles. But this is a great opportunity to get our feet wet and see where they work and where they don’t work.”
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