Weather Forecast


Schachtner defeats Jarchow in special election

This police vehicle a sizable upgrade

River Falls police officers are now using an SUV to patrol the streets during their shifts. The newly equipped vehicle should offer better winter traction and give officers a higher vantage point to survey traffic. The rooftop emergency light bar, with reconditioned, bright LED lights, will also be easier for people to spot from farther away. <i>Phil Pfuehler photo</i>

Two decades of Crown Vic squad cars came to an end last year when Ford discontinued that long-used, well-established model.

Enter the next generation of squad sedans and SUVs, also made by Ford. The River Falls Police Department just added the Ford SUV Interceptor to its fleet of 10 marked and unmarked vehicles.

After having all the equipment installed, the SUV squad hit the streets last week Wednesday.

Police Sgt. Matt Kennett gave it a thumbs up.

"It's an impressive vehicle," Kennett said. "The biggest improvement is that we sit higher and this gives us a greater range of visibility -- you can see better over other passenger cars down the road to check traffic patterns and look for hazards."

Police Chief Roger Leque said visibility was just one reason to try the SUV option.

Expanded interior space was another -- for the officer or officers in front, for "customers" placed in the back seat, and for all the gear officers now use, from an upright laptop computer and keyboard, emergency medical and traffic equipment, weapons, cameras, road flares, traffic cones and more.

The new SUV police squad cost $29,360. Extra costs were added later for equipment installation.

The last Crown Victoria patrol vehicle purchases were made in 2011 from Hudson Ford-Mercury. The price was $23,698 per vehicle.

Unlike the rear-wheel driven Crown Vics, the new SUV Interceptor has all-wheel drive. Leque said the change should be another plus.

"We expect this will create better handling and responsiveness, especially during winter road conditions," he said.

The new SUV has a six-cylinder engine while the Crown Vics were V-8s. Leque said accelerations needed for pursuits should be just as effective for the smaller-engine SUV Interceptor.

Gas mileage for the police SUV should improve.

After several hundred miles of cold-weather, city driving, Kennett said the SUV was getting 17.7 miles per gallon. The Crown Vic squad cars, he said, typically only average 9-12 mpg.

The SUV becomes the fifth police marked vehicle. Four others are unmarked and the one the SUV has replaced will be used as a marked backup.

Leque said marked vehicles are typically "transitioned" to unmarked status after 80,000-90,000 miles of patrolling city streets.

The RFPD will buy another vehicle sometime in 2013. Leque said officers will review the SUV Interceptor's performance before deciding whether to buy a second one.

"This winter will give us a good opportunity to do that evaluation," he said.

For more on this story, please see the Jan. 10 print edition of the River Falls Journal