Grant covers most of new squad car
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · December 07, 2012

The new West Branch Police Department squad car is smaller than the department’s pickup, but bigger than the sedan, and sports a completely different look.

The $26,000 vehicle is a 2013 Ford Explorer, and while a lot of the equipment is similar to the department’s other two cars, the silver exterior with blue lettering — rather than black with yellow lettering — is deliberately different, Police Chief Mike Horihan said.

“I wanted to get away from black,” he said. “(Black) has a negative image.”

Black is also harder to keep clean, he said. He said he also does not care for white, in part because it “doesn’t look as good” when it goes to auction.

Nearly $21,000 of the Explorer’s purchase price was paid by what remained of a Combatting Rural Crime grant, originally obtained to hire a part-time worker in the police department’s office. When the worker left for another job, Horihan said he was allowed to use what remained of the 2009 grant to purchase the new squad car.

Another $8,000 in donations, originally collected to buy an ATV, was tapped to cover the remainder of the purchase price, Horihan said.

“Without the $20,000 grant, it would have been hard to find the money (in the city budget),” the police chief said. “This takes a little less bite out of the (local) taxpayer’s pocket.”

Equipping the vehicle and having lettering added was paid for with tax dollars, though, he said, at a cost of about $17,000.

The Explorer is rated for police pursuits, though Horihan said he does not like chases, has four-wheel drive for Iowa snow and, of course, a cage in the back seat for arrestees.

“It handles nice,” he said.

It does not have an automated external defibrillator, though, while the Dodge Charger and Dodge Ram do. Horihan hopes to raise money to buy one.

The pickup, with a 5.7-liter Hemi engine, gets about 10 miles per gallon in town, Horihan said, while the Explorer gets about 13 miles per gallon in the city. He has heard that Cedar County Sheriff’s Department gets 19 mpg on its Explorers while driving around the county.

West Branch also has a white sedan, and Horihan has been removing equipment from it over time, preparing to sell it.

The unmarked sedan’s video equipment is not working, he said, and the radio is out of date.

Horihan said police radios must switch to a narrow band by the end of the year, one that is more difficult for scanners to pick up. Also, by 2018, police radios must be “P25 compatible,” which means they must be able to communicate with county, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The Explorer’s radio is P25 compatible, he said.

Horihan said the department plans to purchase new police cars every two years, meaning each car is exchanged every six years. The Charger will be replaced in 2014, and the Ram will be replaced in 2016.

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