Running on Empty

Aging vehicles with high mileage are common among Miles City Police Department’s patrol car fleet but efforts are being made to upgrade the fleet with new four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles.

Due to budget constraints, it’s a slow process. 

“Obviously it’s not going to happen overnight,” Police Chief Doug Colombik told the Star Thursday morning.

Mayor John Hollowell said addressing the problem is one of the priorities for the future.

The department has 16 vehicles, including a 1991 GMC truck/evidence van, a 2004 GMC Envoy SUV and two 2015 Ford Explorer police interceptors. 

The remaining vehicles are 12 Ford Crown Victorias patrol cars dating from 1995 to 2009.

The rear-wheel drive cars are in constant use and have many miles on them, Colombik said. They also tend to get stuck in the snow.

The two Interceptors have around 25,000 miles each on them. The rest of the vehicles have “well over 100,000 miles on them” with the older Crown Victoria cars having nearly 200,000 miles, Colombik said.

He added that that the “Crown Vics” are outdated and the department is phasing them out.

On Dec. 27 the Miles City Council approved a $39,800 purchase for a new Ford Explorer Police Interceptor. Colombik said the Interceptor is an Explorer with some modifications and reinforced features designed for police use.

In the past fiscal year the city purchased two new Interceptors and next year the chief hopes to purchase two newer used ones.

Columbik told the council that officers were using their own personal pickups to get around in the snow after the big Christmas storm, which poses a liability problem.

Councilman John Uden said it’s nice to see the department switching to four-wheel drive vehicles due to the winter weather conditions in Miles City.

Officers are assigned a vehicle then are responsible to check the oil and other fluids, watch the tire pressure, etc. 

Columbik said police Capt. Mark Reddick manages the fleet and watches for any potential issues. Dan Decker and Scott Ask of the city shop handle any repairs. 

“(The vehicles) are in pretty good shape for the abuse they’ve had over the years,” Colombik said.

The department goes through a lot of tires and parts, he said.

In calendar year 2015 a total of 75,453 miles were put on the patrol cars.

Actually patrol cars are racking up less miles than in the past because there’s very little down time to go patrolling.

Colombik said officers go from call to call to call because the call volume is so heavy.

The newer vehicles get the most use but he doesn’t want them to be over-used by being driven on all three shifts so the other vehicles are still used.