Police spend thousands repairing new cruisers

August 2, 2010


San Luis Obispo police have spent $37,434 in seven months repairing and maintaining 10 high speed police cruisers, causing some to question if the Dodge Chargers are prone to malfunctions, or are the breakdowns the result of poor care and maintenance.

Police insiders contend that the new fleet of Dodge Chargers has been plagued with repair issues, including brake problems, two blown engines and a broken transmission at an average monthly cost of $535 per car during the past seven months.

The city purchased the 10 cars, a combination of 2008 and 2009 models, for $327,600. Since then, city and private mechanics have completed 323 work orders at a cost of $87,772, said Jay Walter, San Luis Obispo Public Works Director.

“Brakes have not been a problem other than normal wear of pads and rotors used on a pursuit vehicle of this type,” Walter added.

According to Police Fleet Manager, Chrysler has some of the best braking performance available, but expensive to maintain. The factory brake pads are notorious for wearing out after every 6,000 to 8,000 miles on some of the fleets.

Arroyo Grande Police Chief Steven Annibali elected to replace the standard high performance feature with longer lasting brakes shortly after he leased nine 2008 Dodge Chargers.

Annibali said he loves the Chargers and has had very few problems.

“It is all about the care and maintenance of the cars,” Annibali said. “If I find damage on a car, somebody is going to hear about it. It is the biggest single asset we have.”

Instead of purchasing the cruisers, Annibali elected to lease his fleet.

Municipal leases require no down payments, no mileage penalties, include repair warranties and allow the department to purchase the cruisers for $1 a car at the end of a four year lease.

The department leases each car for $630 a month. During the first seven months of 2010, monthly maintenance costs ran an average of $59.25 per car, Annibali said.

Arroyo Grande spends approximately $789 a month month for leasing, repairing and maintaining each police Charger.

In comparison, San Luis Obispo spends approximately $1,217 per Charger each month. (Amounts are based on the departments’ 2010 repair and maintenance costs, lease and purchase prices and four years of use. Police departments generally purchase a new fleet every three to four years.)

To get the highest possible resale price, Arroyo Grande decided to put a vinyl wrap with a police logo on the front doors which eliminates the requirement to repaint the cars upon resale.

When it is time to sell the cruiser, they will peel off the wrap and buff out the car. They expect to receive $3,600 for each car.

In contrast, San Luis Obispo cruisers will require a new paint job when the cars are sold and as such are not expected to receive as high a price.

In the past, San Luis Police drove Ford Crown Victorias, the same vehicles Paso Robles city officials chose to purchase in 2008 and 2009. Though the vehicles are the same age as the San Luis Obispo’s fleet, repair and maintenance costs run an average of $250 per car, less than half of what San Luis Obispo spends.

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The model and paint jobs of the SLOPD cruisers bother me. They scream “we can waste taxpayers’ money!” I gotta tell you Linden, even if they cost the same as the lowly Fords with their simpler paint jobs, you should still consider how people perceive them AND how your officers drive the damned things.

I wonder if anyone looked at how the lead-footed cops drive those Dodge cartoon cars? They beat the heck out of them! Those cutesy/trendy cars were sold on the belief they were “safer.” Utter nonsense. Cops in SLO should be driving something like Honda Civics. All those Dodges are doing is wasting taxpayer money. I think their appearance alone is antagonizing to taxpayers. Thanks, Linden.

Here’s another angle know one has brought up, don’t buy another car, do what they did with the Dodge Viper, confiscate it! Just pic the car you want and check if the guy is dirty, if he is mount the gun rack and put in the cage, make the backseat smaller to cause more pain to those you arrest, or should us liberals just throw in the towel and buy them all limos.

Ridiculous, and what about warranty? Taxpayers being taken for a ride. What is the matter with compact cars and bicycles. Do we want cops chasing at 140 MPH on city streets? What are their radios for?

Throw the bums out who authorized this. Enough is enough!

No wonder the city is trying to find money wherever they can, hence the new crackdown on people who rent their home. Remember this business tax/license for landlords has been in affect since the 90’s, but they haven’t pursued it. If it is a law, then enforce it from the get go. I am sure some of the revenue will go to fix these utterly ridiculous sporty vehicles. There are cheaper and not as flashy cars available. for our police force that work just as well as the super duper sporty racy Dodge Chargers.

I was surpised to see they are only getting 6,000 to 8,000 miles on a set of brakes. I love the central coast police departments and having nothing against them, but they do seem to accelerate quickly and then slam on the breaks a lot. I got 180,000 miles on my last set of brakes (’03 Camry), surely the PD could get 20,000 or 30,000 on a set if they accelerated less and coasted a little more.

I just enlarged the SLO PD picture. Besides the special paint job, bumper guard, and rims “service, pride, integrity ” are painted on the car. This smacks of immaturity and image problems.