SALT LAKE CITY - In an effort to cut fuel costs — thereby possibly saving jobs, as well as reducing its impact on the environment — the Salt Lake Police Department recently unveiled the latest additions to its fleet: a hybrid patrol car and an electric three-wheeled vehicle, according to Deseret News.
Salt Lake police have added five 2009 Toyota Camry four-door sedan hybrids to its fleet. The department believes it is among the first law enforcement agencies in the nation to include a hybrid in its patrol fleet.
The department spends $1.5 million a year in fuel to keep its fleet running, said Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank. It hopes to reduce that number, possibly by as much as $4,000 per vehicle per year, by adding more fuel-efficient cars.
Burbank called the addition of the hybrid vehicles a "necessary" purchase.
"Anywhere I can reduce fuel cost is a saving on personnel cost," he said.
Burbank is driving one of the department's new hybrid vehicles, which he said his office had been investigating for almost two years. His new car gets 25 miles per gallon, compared to his old police cruiser that was getting a little more than 10 mpg, he said.
However, Burbank admitted the vehicles will take some getting used to. The hybrids the department purchased are not custom police cars. They were built as passenger vehicles.
Salt Lake added lights, sirens and other features normally found in a custom police car.
The department will use the hybrids on a trial run to find out how the vehicles will hold up in everyday police work. The car's suspension, for example, was an area that concerned the chief. The department's hybrids were expected to be heavier than normal hybrids because of the extra police equipment and batteries added.
The hybrids will be tested on the state's Emergency Vehicle Operation training range as well as during the grind of their daily use. If they prove successful, Burbank said more hybrids could be ordered next year.
Each year, the department routinely adds new vehicles to its fleet and takes out ones that have run their limit. The department switched out about 50 vehicles this year; five of them were hybrids.
In addition to getting a new type of car, Salt Lake police are also changing their image with a new logo and paint job to go on their vehicles. Rather than the traditional blue and white paint, all new vehicles will be black and white with a gold stripe along the bottom, and "Salt Lake Police" in big letters on the doors.
"We want everyone to know it's a police car, and it's a Salt Lake City police car," Burbank said.
Salt Lake police also want to be more visible around the city, letting both the public and criminals know they're watching, he said. As part of that, the department is reducing the number of unmarked patrol cars in its fleet, Burbank said.