Blaine police are now cruising around town in new vehicles after upgrading four vehicles in late November.
The Blaine Police Department leased four 2020 Ford Explorer police utility vehicles after the operation of the vehicles became too unreliable for emergency calls, Blaine Police Department fleet manager Skylar Deffinbaugh said.
“It’s a big relief,” he said. “We were in a process where they were breaking down so frequently, we were worried they’d break down when an officer was on a call. But with these new vehicles, that worry goes away.”
The department is leasing its vehicles for the first time, instead of purchasing them on an as-needed basis, Deffinbaugh said. The vehicles are being leased from FCI Custom Police Vehicles in North Bend, Washington.
The standardized replacement plans allow vehicles to be leased for four years. At the end of the contract, the city of Blaine has the option to replace the leased vehicles with newer ones or purchase the vehicles if they want to use them past the lease.
The department’s new vehicles are Ford Explorers with upgraded brakes, suspension, cooling system and a 3.3 liter V6 engine specific for law enforcement needs, Deffinbaugh said.
The retired vehicles were as much as 14-years-old: a 2006, 2008 and 2009 Dodge Charger, a 2006 Dodge Durango and a 2008 Chevy Tahoe. The department has used a variety of vehicles in the past but is working to standardize its fleet, Deffinbaugh said.
The vehicles mileages exceeded 100,000 miles, Deffinbaugh said. Although this wouldn’t be a problem for most people, the fleet manager said police work puts demands on vehicles that results in harder wear: long periods of idling, rapid acceleration and harder braking being some examples. Outdated technology and safety features also factored into the department’s decision, Deffinbaugh said.
One of the biggest reasons for leasing the new vehicles, Deffinbaugh said, is reduced maintenance costs. Leasing means most of vehicle maintenance will be covered under the manufacturer warranty up to 60,000 miles, except for things like oil changes and new tires.
In total, the four vehicle leases cost about $53,000 annually, Deffinbaugh said. Vehicle maintenance last year cost the department over $50,000 but fleet maintenance this year is estimated to be $20,000 or less if there are no major mechanical failures.
Deffinbaugh said the department’s oldest vehicle now is a 2010 Ford Crown Victoria and is one of two backup vehicles. Officers drive their vehicles about 15,000-20,000 miles per year, which means they should be replaced every five to six years.
The last vehicle replacement was in 2018 when the police department purchased four used Ford Explorers as an emergency measure to replace unserviceable vehicles with issues ranging from interior mold to potential fire hazards, Deffinbaugh said. “It wasn’t ideal but it worked out exceedingly well,” he said.
Deffinbaugh said he believes two of the department’s 17 vehicles will need to be replaced in the next year but leasing will depend on the department’s budget.
The new vehicles are in the process of being outfitted, which will include having radios and Blaine Police Department graphics added. The retired vehicles will be stripped of their police equipment and then sold at an auction, Deffinbaugh said.
“The officers are very appreciative,” Blaine police chief Donnell Tanksley said during the December 14 city council meeting. “We still have to outfit those vehicles to make them operational but it makes a lot of difference to the citizens of Blaine and to our responses.”