Police Department's Infatuation With Impalas Was Short-Lived


(Tuesday, November 20, 2007 7:48 AM EST)

It may end up being a relatively brief fling between the Arlington County Police Department and the Chevrolet Impala.

The department last year started to phase Impalas into its fleet, but, after weighing officer feedback, the department is mulling its options for future vehicle purchases.

Although officers have reported liking the Impala's front-wheel-drive, they've complained about the small interior, which results in a less comfortable ride and more noticeable blind spots.

“Anyone over 6 feet tall has a hard time,” said Capt. Kamran Afzal, the department's fleet manager. “Both horizontally and vertically, there's not enough space for everything we have.”

The department chose Impalas to replace the widely used Ford Crown Victoria, in an effort to cut costs.

According to last year's figures, new Crown Victorias (equipment included) cost roughly $33,000, and Impalas cost a little more than $23,000. Impalas also can get up to 27 miles to the gallon, more than double the mileage of the Crown Victoria.

Currently there are 24 Impalas in the 257-vehicle fleet, six of which are used as patrol cars.

The Vienna Police Department has experienced similar problems with the Impalas as Arlington officers have, and will be reverting back to the Crown Victoria.

The Crown Victoria offers bigger seats, more headroom, a larger trunk and adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, Vienna officers reported.

These cars are much more comfortable for officers wearing bullet-resistant vests, heavy gun belts and other equipment, said the officers, who basically use the vehicles as their offices during 12-hour shifts, they said.

While Impalas may not be the best patrol car, the Arlington Police Department plans on using them until they need to be replaced, and still consider them a viable vehicle option for non-patrol and administrative purposes.

“Our intent is to have all investigation and non-patrol vehicles go from eight-cylinder to six-cylinder,” Afzal said. “We are looking at options to lower costs, since gas prices keep going up.”

The Arlington Police Department's recent purchase of two hybrid Toyota Camrys is part of the effort to save money.

“They are more expensive than the Impala, but the fuel savings will equal out,” Afzal said.

The Camrys currently are being used by Afzal and a captain in the operations division, but not as patrol vehicles. Hybrid cars cannot be used as patrol vehicles because their batteries aren't powerful enough to support the patrol cars' roof-top light bars.

Afzal said he wants “to see if this technology has improved enough to use in routine police functions,” and may consider replacing four Crown Victorias with hybrids next year.

Brian Trompeter contributed to this report.

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