Big, new wheels for city police |

Big, new wheels for city police

The first of 10 new police vehicles hit the streets of South Lake Tahoe this week.

Soon each of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department’s blue Ford Explorers will be replaced by white Ford Expeditions which are both bigger and better, according to officer Chuck Owens.

“We had to get a bigger car,” Owens said. “They are going to keep more cops on the street to serve the public and the bigger vehicles are just safer.”

The $32,000 vehicles are equipped with on-board computers, which will allow police to file reports from their cars.

The Expeditions will handle better in poor road conditions, he said.

“The wider and longer wheel base allows the vehicle to handle much better in the snow and ice,” said Owens, who added that the larger vehicles will also make police and prisoners more comfortable.

“Police officers work 12-hour shifts and these cars become offices for them,” he said.

When the remaining vehicles arrive police officers will be assigned to each car. Currently, officers use whatever vehicle is available, many of which have different equipment.

“It is an officer-safety issue,” Owens said. “If you are riding in a vehicle you have never been in before – and you have a hot call – and you are searching for siren switches and light switches, that creates a problem.

“We have never assigned specific vehicles to specific officers but it is safer and we can keep them in service longer,” he said.

The police department typically replaces its vehicles every four years, and money is set aside in the budget for that purpose, but it was especially necessary that the new cars have room for additional law enforcement equipment.

Not only will every vehicle have a computer, they will have several additional lights to provide for better visibility, and a mobile command station at the rear. Large push bumpers will also increase officer safety and allow them to push other cars from the road if they are blocking traffic.

The cars will also carry an AR-15 machine gun, in addition to the standard shotgun, which will give policemen added fire power.

By the end of next month the police department will also replace its four Chevrolet Luminas with larger Ford Crown Victorias.

Several officers said they were excited about the new cars.

“We want the public to understand that we needed these vehicles,” Owens said.

“I have been working on this project for a year, and we evaluated almost everything on the market before deciding that the vehicles are the best value for our department.”

The police department welcomes any feedback regarding the vehicles.

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