By Dave Rogers
---- — AMESBURY — For years, the Amesbury Police Department has patrolled the city streets in their familiar Ford Crown Victoria sedans with blue hoods and matching blue stripes along each side. But later this month, the department is expected to be rolling out five new SUV-like cruisers with a different color scheme.
The new cruisers, officially classified as Ford Utility Police Interceptors and based on squatter versions of the Ford Explorer, will prominently feature the word “police” on both doors with “Amesbury” underneath it in smaller lettering. Gone are the blue hoods and horizontal blue strips, which have been replaced with white hoods and blue and gray vertically angled stripes.
Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer said the city is leasing the cruisers for three years with an annual cost of $50,000. That includes a 2.19 percent interest rate from the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank.
“What we’ve done is make the operational cost consistent from year-to-year, so it’s not a case of a big payment one year and none the next several. We’ve leveled off our costs and that’s part of the police budget. The council has been approving this since 2007, and it seems to be popular with the councilors in that it keeps our costs consistent. From a budget sense it makes it very smooth over time,” Kezer said.
The department joins a growing number of law enforcement agencies, including the Massachusetts State Police, Seabrook Police Department and Boston police that have switched to the SUV-type of cruiser. Other departments, including Salisbury, Newburyport and Rowley, have exchanged their Crown Victorias for Dodge Chargers or cruisers based on the Ford Taurus platform. But some police officers using the Taurus-designed cruisers have been critical of their tight interiors and their overall road performance.
“What they’ve (Amesbury police) found is that the sedans are smaller vehicles and tighter in the space. So one of the reviews we’ve gotten back from the police officers is when they’re in their cruisers and they’ve got all their gear on their belt, their radios, their weapons and all of that, they can barely get in and out of their vehicle. They’re just crunched in,” Kezer said.
Another factor considered by local police is the SUVs’ all-wheel drive, which will make it far easier to respond to emergencies during snowstorms than in sedans that feature front-wheel drive or, even more challenging, cruisers featuring rear-wheel drive, like some Dodge Chargers.
The need for an all-wheel drive was brought to light last winter after local police had difficultly responding to a medical emergency involving a woman going into labor. Due to heavy snow and icy on her street, sedans were unable to access her home. Thankfully, police had borrowed two all-wheel Silverado pickup trucks, thanks to the generosity of Amesbury Chevrolet, and used one of those vehicles to reach the patient.
“There was a much broader review, but those were the two main factors that dictated our decision to go with the SUVs,” Kezer said.