By Devin Rose
New police cars hitting the streets of Oak Park are more spacious and get better fuel mileage than the previous discontinued model.
The village's Public Works Department went through a state bid process to purchase the five Dodge Chargers for about $23,000 each, said Deputy Police Chief Anthony Ambrose. The four-door Chargers have rear-wheel drive with a good amount of trunk and interior space to accommodate cameras, radios and computers. It's the first year the department has had this model, said Ken Crowley, a senior mechanic for Fleet Services. Chargers have been out for about four years.
Fleet Services Supervisor Ron Fantetti said his staff considers each vehicle's age and mileage when they're looking to make replacements. Vehicles are switched out every 4-10 years, he said. Police had been using Ford Crown Victorias since about 1997, but those have been discontinued in the last couple years
"Size is the primary reason we went with them," Fantetti said of the switch to Chargers.
In addition to the four marked and one unmarked Chargers — including one evidence technician vehicle and one that Crowley was still building — Fleet Services also purchased a Ford Explorer. Fanfetti said the police utility vehicle with all-wheel drive cost about $26,000.
Ambrose said the department still has a couple of Crown Victorias, Chevy Impalas and a Chevy Tahoe. Fleet Services has a chart of those vehicles to keep track of when they might need to be replaced. The only time they don't stand by the chart is if a car is totaled.
After police got the Chargers a couple of months ago, Ambrose said they also had to order equipment like lights and cages because the equipment from the older vehicles is not interchangeable. Crowley added that the graphics production and equipment installation is done in-house, so they know it's done correctly.
He said eventually they'd like to have all the same vehicles, and to that end they'll see how durable the Charger is throughout the next year.