Lakewood police are refurbishing some of their squad cars rather than buying new ones, a decision that could save the city $15,000 per upgraded car and help the vehicles handle better on the street.
“For such a simple idea, it is really paying dividends,” said Assistant Police Chief Michael Zaro. “So far it’s been successful in saving us a lot of money and we’re supporting a local business.”
The department has about 60 Ford Crown Victorias patrolling the streets. About 30 could be eligible to be refurbished, depending on their mileage and wear.
A new Ford Crown Victoria costs about $30,000 and could run up to $35,000. It costs between $16,000 and $18,000 to spruce one up.
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“We’re saving (money) but we’re putting a safer car out as well,” said Paul Deskins, owner of Lakewood-based Systems of Public Safety Inc. “These perform better than a new car.”
For six years, Deskins’ company has done routine maintenance on the department’s fleet but now is adding more power and panache to some of the Crown Victorias, which usually tally more than 100,000 miles on the odometer.
The vehicles eventually will get a remanufactured Ford transmission and engine with 269 horsepower, an energy efficient LED light bar, performance suspension, overhauled brakes, a new steering wheel and driver’s seat and 17-inch pursuit tires.
The paint and graphics also will be touched up.
“They’re peppier,” said Terry Neumann, the city’s fleet maintenance coordinator. “They’re quicker off the line and that makes a difference in the officers’ getting there.”
Police rolled out their first overhauled car in April and three more have been refurbished since then. By the end of the year, another 10 are to be outfitted with the custom performance package.
The work, which takes two weeks to complete, should allow the squad cars to stay in service for another four years or 100,000 miles.
Officer Paul Osness is driving the first overhauled car. He said the refurbished model handles better, has a shorter stopping distance, stronger suspension and is better at accelerating from low speeds.
“So far I am really happy with this car,” Osness said.
The idea to fix up worn-down cars rather than retire them has been floated for nearly two years. During that time, Deskins worked with officer Ronald Owens on perfecting a combination of equipment to put in the cars.
Owens, a NASCAR junkie who loved tinkering on cars, eagerly volunteered to use his take-home cruiser as a test mule.
After Owens and three other officers were shot to death Nov. 29 in a Parkland coffee shop Deskins dubbed the performance package SPS 404 CVPI because the fallen officer’s car number was 404.
The number 404 has been inscribed on various parts being put in the refurbished vehicles and Owens’ motto – “Making A Difference” – is being emblazoned on the back of the squad cars.
Deskins is running tests to gather specific data on perceived improvements in gas mileage and performance. “We take it to a whole other level and when it leaves here, it’s performing like a true police car,” Deskins said.
Staff writer Stacey Mulick contributed to this report.