Depleted fleet of vehicles adds another roadblock for SPD
Amidst deteriorating morale and a depleting workforce, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has an additional hurdle to cross: An updated fleet of working police cars.
“We don’t have cars to do our jobs and respond to call outs or just do daily investigations!” a departing officer wrote in a 2022 exit interview. “It’s been a problem for years.”
According to last year’s exit interviews obtained by MyNorthwest from the SPD, one of the questions asked was: “Did you have the necessary equipment to successfully complete your job?”
“Yes, if/when it was working,” one departing officer replied in his exit interview. “Even with low staffing, it was a struggle to find a fully-functioning car.”
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“No, it was difficult to find a working vehicle every day,” another resigning patrol officer who spent more than five years with the SPD said. “Vehicles for patrol would be a good start, but the vehicles are in disrepair.”
SPD debuted the Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicle — a cross between a Taurus sedan and an Explorer SUV — in 2015, after using Ford Crown Victorias for nearly 20 years prior.
“We actually have over 100 cars we’re experiencing a supply chain issue with that we don’t have that we’ve ordered,” SPD Chief Adrian Diaz told MyNorthwest. “We have vehicles that are running probably a little bit longer than they should be because we don’t have new cars to replace them over the last couple of years. And that’s a byproduct of COVID.”
While typical replacement for police vehicles occurs annually when they reach the end of their useful or reliable lifetime as first responder vehicles, SPD has an extensive backlog due to supply chain issues brought on by the pandemic.
Ford Motor Company reported a net loss of $2 billion last week, citing cost issues and computer chip shortages as reasons for the discouraging financial outlook, according to Auto Week.
“I think the backlog derives in large part from COVID, though there were also fires at one of two semiconductor fabrication plants in Asia that may also have played a role,” said Spencer Bahner, the core communication services manager for Seattle IT. “This did result in delays in vehicle deliveries that finally began to resolve last year. We have been receiving quantities of the backlogged vehicles and are getting caught up with the vehicle deployment.”
The newest cars the SPD is beginning to deploy are hybrids as part of the City of Seattle’s transition to a more environmentally friendly fleet.
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It’s an extensive process to replace a police department’s fleet. According to Mission Critical Communications Review, police vehicles can cost roughly $40,000 to replace when including everything inside, like a $6,000 two-way radio, a $3,700 laptop, a $3,000 lightbar, and approximately $1,200 of safety equipment.