For the past several years, police departments around the country have transitioned from using sedans to sport utility vehicles for their daily operations. That trend is no different in Ellis County, as several agencies currently utilize the Chevrolet Tahoe as the primary line vehicle.
Wade Goolsby, Waxahachie Police Chief stated the department made the transition to the SUV three years ago and have had a lot of success with the platform.
“There are a lot of reasons that you see Tahoes in police work. The first reason is just physical space,” Goolsby said. “Over the years, vehicles have been downsized and the amount of equipment going into police cars have increased.”
Goolsby stated that space is occupied with a large console with radio controls, siren controls, public address system controls, a computer, and an in-car video system. Behind the officer, there is a prisoner screen that takes up leg space in the back seat.
During each shift, the department runs five to nine patrol vehicle putting 100-200 miles on each shift. The cars from the previous shift are rested for 12 hours before going back into service. This measure helps to extend the Tahoe’s service life.
“When Ford stopped making the Crown Victoria people started looking for alternatives. We tried the Caprice for a while but it was very cramped,” Goolsby stated. “Especially if you are training another officer and you have two officers in that vehicle. We are constantly training officers, and that is about a four-month process. It is just a matter of practicality.”
Patrol vehicles are typically retired after four to five years. Some in better condition are shifted to lower intense use at the department or are used as spares in the event one has to go in for repairs. Others in poorer mechanical shape are auctioned off as surplus equipment. The department has phased out the Ford Crown Victorias and still has a few Caprices left in its inventory but is phasing those out, as well.
“The Tahoes have been a really reliable vehicle. We don’t have to put them in much for repairs. You may lose a little in gas, but you gain in the maintenance and repairs. They have been great," Goolsby said. "They are not quite as quick or as fast as a sedan, but it is a trade-off.”
In the 2018-19 fiscal year budget, the department has requested five new vehicles.
According to Chevrolet’s website, a non-police Tahoe starts at $47,500. With the outfitting of police equipment, Goolsby noted the cost is about $58,000 per vehicle.
“We have a staggered replacement plan,” Goolsby said. “Every few years we replace the ones that have reached that age and that point.”
Lt. Wess Winn, Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, stated Tahoe’s are designed to meet the needs of today's law enforcement.
“We carry so much stuff it is easier to get in the back of these things. They still have a cage in the back where we can transport prisoners,” Winn said. “In the very back, we put a case back there and put equipment and stuff that we use on the side of the road.”
Winn stated it is not uncommon for deputies to put 200-300 miles on a vehicle during a shift due to the large area they patrol. He noted the vehicles used by the sheriff’s office have a total service life of around seven to eight years. They first start in the patrol division and then shift over to other uses with the agency.
Winn stated the Tahoes have a rugged quality that holds up over time. He added the agency has used Dodge Chargers in the past and is moving away from them due to mechanical issues.
One of the advantages the SUV has is its size, which helps deputies as they are on patrol.
“One of the big pluses of them is they sit up higher, and are more visible. The number one form of crime prevention it offers is a presence,” Winn said. “Someone can see it a whole lot more than a lower sitting sedan.”