Most families get to a point where they outgrow their current vehicle and opt for something reliable with a little more leg room and cargo space — the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) is no different. Over the last four years, the DCSO has worked to transition from their fleet of Dodge Charger sedans to primarily all Ford Explorer SUV patrol vehicles.
In 2011, the Ford Motor company discontinued production on the Crown Victoria, which was “the going police car of the time,” according to Chief Deputy Sheriff Major Barry Smith.
“When that happened,” Smith said, “that really opened up the door for all of the police departments across the United States to start looking at what they were going to go to.”
Smith said in the first year (2012), the DCSO purchased four Dodge Chargers, while he said other departments went with the Ford Taurus Interceptor. He said the DCSO “diversified a little bit” in 2013, buying two Chargers and two Ford Explorer SUVs.
“Ever since 2015, we’ve done nothing but buy Ford Explorers or the police pursuit SUV package,” Smith said.
Last year the DCSO purchased five vehicles out of their allotted budget. Smith said, at about $35,000 a piece, fully equipped (cage, computer mounts, console and installed light bar), they purchase four to six vehicles a year.
The DCSO now has a total of 21 Ford Explorer SUVs, with three Chargers still being used in other capacities.
“Our Chargers have been phased. There’s no Chargers that are currently on day-to-day road operations although we still have three that we’re using,” Smith said. “We have a Charger that’s a spare, we have a Charger that’s in court and we have a Charger that a school resource officer’s driving.”
Smith said there are several reasons why the Sheriff’s Office went all SUV. One reason is sheriff’s deputies carry full-size spares in the trunks of their vehicles, which decreases the amount of room for additional equipment. Deputies often carry equipment for accident and crime scene investigation, including items for fingerprinting, photography and cones for accident scenes. The SUVs offer an increased amount of storage space.
The other concern was the amount of room available for prisoners and deputies with the cage divider inserted.
“The actual room inside of the passenger compartment for the deputy and also for prisoners — it’s really really tight once we put that cage in that car for prisoner transport,” Smith said, adding that the space is decreased if they need to transport more than one prisoner, which is often necessary.
The SUV is also an all-wheel-drive vehicle which is an advantage over the rear wheel drive Charger — especially out in the county and on snow days, Smith said.
As far as concerns with cost or gas mileage, Smith said the price difference between the two vehicles at purchase was around $1,300. He also said that there is not a dramatic difference in gas mileage between the Ford Explorer V6 engine and the previous Charger V8.
“That was not really a factor with the advantages that we were seeing for the Ford,” Smith said. “We pick up all over the state of Kentucky and then travel. It’ll be mind-boggling how many trips we take and how many prisoners we transport.”
Smith said between warrant transports, court, prisoners housed in other counties and extraditions within a 200-300 mile radius of Kentucky, available space for prisoners and deputies became the primary concern.
“That Charger it was just really, really small,” Smith said. “They were good vehicles — we’re going to continue to use them until they’re just done.”