New SUVs replace older vehicles with paint, rust issues

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FARMINGTON — The Farmington police vehicles being driven around the city with rust and paint issues are cycling out in favor of 15 new vehicles.

The first of the new SUVs hit the streets in the middle of January, Chief Steve Hebbe said.

The purchase of 15 2017 Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles at a cost of $500,000 was approved by the Farmington City Council as part of the City of Farmington's budget for the 2018 fiscal year, according to City Manager Rob Mayes.

The department announced the arrival of the units in a post on its Facebook page on Feb. 1, thanking the citizens of Farmington and City Council for their support.

"Although the vehicles looked quite dilapidated, they were still in working condition so FPD continued to use them until the end of their life," the Facebook post stated about the vehicles that are being retired.

Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors that have paint and rust issues will not be used on a daily basis once all the new police SUVs are on the road, Hebbe said.

Hebbe said the paint issues occurred on 2006, 2007 and 2008 models of the Crown Victoria Police Interceptors.

He added the paint would chip and not stick to parts of the vehicles, including the roof, where rust would form.

It was important for Hebbe to find a balance between vehicles that represent the city of Farmington well and being careful with taxpayer money.

"You don't want to trade in taxpayer-spent money on a car with 60,000 to 65,000 miles on it because there is bad paint," Hebbe said.

The old patrol vehicles being cycled out have about 125,000 miles on them and are approaching the end of their usefulness. Those vehicles will be inserted into the pool of vehicles for emergency use, and some might be used by the local police academy for training.

There were about 12 patrol vehicles with significant paint issues that will be replaced by the new Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles for everyday use.

The new Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles started to arrive at the department in the last couple of weeks, Hebbe said.

Since then, employees have been installing such equipment as gun locks, emergency lights and a mobile deck platform for computers in the vehicles.

One of the features Hebbe highlighted in the new police SUVs is the installation of Kevlar into the front driver-side and passenger-side door panels to protect officers from gunshots fired into the vehicles. The department has paid extra money since 2015 to have the material installed in patrol vehicles, but Hebbe said the feature is standard in the new vehicles.

"To me, it was a big deal," Hebbe said. "I wanted us to have that extra safety feature."

He said there was an incident when he worked for the Anchorage, Alaska, Police Department in which someone pulled up alongside a patrol vehicle and fired at the officer.

Hebbe worked for the Anchorage Police Department for 23 years before joining Farmington police.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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