OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Omaha police and other law enforcement agencies have been filling their cruiser fleets with bigger, more comfortable sport utility vehicles instead of purchasing more four-door sedans.
Omaha City Council approved the purchase of 40 Ford Explorer police utility vehicles in February for about $1.1 million. Another $1.3 million was approved to install lights, lockers and other equipment.
The vehicles should be on the streets in the fall, said Omaha Police Capt. Edward Reyes. Officials hope to phase out the roughly 150 remaining Chevrolet Caprice patrol vehicles when they become too much to maintain and run.
Officers have a better vantage point in the SUVs and the cars have more room for equipment, said Sgt. Justin Smith.
“Getting in and out of an SUV, it’s a little bit higher up and better on your back than a low-sitting sedan,” Smith said.
Douglas and Sarpy County Sheriff’s Offices have fleets that are primarily utility vehicles.
Sarpy County began purchasing the utility vehicles in 2013, said Chief Deputy Greg London.
“Our deputies love them because they’re just more practical,” London said.
Despite the many advantages of the larger vehicles, departments across the U.S. took Explorers out of service last year after reports of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide building up in passenger compartments. The installation of police equipment may have left holes in the vehicle that weren’t property sealed and caused the leaks, Ford said.
Ford recalled Explorers to replace exhaust tips and reseal interior panels. While Sarpy’s vehicles have been repaired, the department has installed carbon monoxide detectors in the vehicles as a precaution, said George Funderburk, Sarpy County fleet manager
Douglas County has also installed carbon monoxide monitors in their Explorers, but Omaha police have not.
Omaha’s vehicles are outfitted in a way that means no leakage will occur, Reyes said.