Archive for Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Front-wheel drive cruiser sits idle pending training

August 15, 2001

There's a new member of the Baldwin City Police Department's fleet of patrol cars, but it's in the garage, not on the streets.

The 2001 Chevrolet Impala is equipped with the "police package," and that includes front-wheel drive. That's also why the car is sitting. Seems the front-wheel drive police cruisers have been involved in several accidents during high-speed chases and special training is suggested to avoid that.

City Administrator Larry Paine said Police Chief Steve Butell found out about the front-wheel drive problem long before the patrol car had been purchased for around $21,000.

"What Steve found out was there were a number of accidents that occurred when they (officers) first got into them (patrol cars)," said Paine. "And, those officers have been suing their departments for failure to train."

Paine said they are attempting to get training sessions scheduled, but that hasn't happened yet.

The glitch with the patrol car didn't sit well with the city council, which didn't find out about the problem until after it was purchased.

"I'm disappointed we purchased the patrol car under the auspices that it was the lowest bid vehicle and we were not made aware that it would take special training for our officers to operate it," said Mayor Ken Hayes. "It should be parked until our police officers are trained."

Paine said the front-wheel drive situation was known well in advance and council members on the finance committee did know about it. However, that information was presented prior to the new council taking office in May. The decision to purchase the car was done to save money, he said.

"We bought the front-wheel drive to see if we could get a unit that was less expense, with a lower operating cost and to see how a Chevrolet operates in a patrol environment," he said. "The idea was to find out how it held up to save some money in the long run."

He said not having the car available hasn't caused any problems.

"We're not having any trouble with cars right now," said Paine. "The heat takes a toll on them, but we're okay right now."

He said the new patrol car had been parked outside the police station, but will be moved to the garage for storage until officers can be trained to drive it.

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