We’ve all seen them on television shows, movies and of course in real life---police cruisers all smashed-up, usually as a result of an accident, sometimes sustaining collateral damage when forcing a “bad-guy” off the road, sometimes damaged at the end of a high-speed chase.
In any case, the cars need to be repaired and put back in service. Having never delved into that side of the business and given the recent changes in auto-building technology, that most departments have weaned themselves of the older Ford Crown Vics and that they are now into newer vehicles with new technology, it was worth a little investigation.
Autobody News spoke with several police departments from Florida to California with fleets ranging from a dozen cruisers to almost a thousand. Also interviewed were several body shops in Florida, California and Texas, including dealer-owned shops and independent shops. Several other shops and six other police departments were contacted for the article but declined to be interviewed. We were able to speak very briefly with a representative of the NYPD.
Most of the old Ford Crown Vics built with old technology are gone, except for a few that have been retained as back-up vehicles for when front-line cars are out of service. Most departments now use either the Ford Explorer or the Dodge Charger. A couple of smaller departments in Texas like the Chevy Tahoe. And most cruisers are not more than 4 years old. One police department fleet manager stated that 25 percent of their fleet is turned over every year, which is very conservative. Other departments do it more often or overturn a larger percentage.
The number of wrecks a department endures seems to be directly proportional to its size. The two small departments we spoke to in Texas might have one wreck per year, per department. The large sheriff’s department in California with almost 1,000 vehicles will have 40 to 50 cruisers down for collision repair on any given day.