City Council questions, expresses
concern about new SPPD staff car

April 18, 2014
Santa Paula News

A new Dodge Charger is in store for Santa Paula Police but instead of a black and white patrol vehicle it will be assigned to staff, a revelation that brought questions and concerns from the City Council.

The council addressed the acquisition-and later approved the purchase 4-1 with Councilman Martin Hernandez voting no-at the April 7 meeting.

The issue was on the consent calendar, those items considered routine and not warranting discussion but Councilman Bob Gonzales asked that it be pulled.

According to the written report by Police Chief Steve McLean the cost of the vehicle, $27,579 is included in the 2013-2014 budget.

The purchase of the 2014 black Dodge Charger would help replace three aging vehicles that were currently removed from service “due to their high mileage and ongoing mechanical repairs.”

Several more cars in the current fleet have been in service since 2002 and have traveled well in excess of 100,000 miles. 

“Much, if not all of the communication and emergency equipment will be transferred to the new car from an existing Dodge Charger patrol vehicle,” wrote McLean.

McPeek’s Dodge of Anaheim will provide the car under a cooperative buyers agreement with the County of Los Angeles as, “Quotes received from other local bidders were 3 percent to 5 percent higher.”

Lt. Ish Cordero answered the council’s questions kicked off by Gonzales, who first clarified that the vehicle was going to be used by staff and not as a black and white patrol car.

“I was under the impression,” said Gonzales, “we needed black and white more than staff,” vehicles.

Cordero confirmed the purchase would be for “A staff car, we need several staff cars... “

Black and white patrol cars, said Cordero, “are being maintained very well,” and although eventually they will have to be replaced, “for now, they are okay... “

“Not that I want to be picky, but $27,500 for a staff car is a lot of money,” said Gonzales.

“We could buy a mid-size car for a staff car... it wouldn’t be almost $28,000. It’s not my department,” said Gonzales, the city’s former police chief, “you guys do what you have to do. 

“I just don’t understand why we’re paying this kind of money for a staff car when we could buy a staff car for maybe $18,000,” and also purchase a new patrol unit within the present budget.

 “I was also under the belief it was a black and white vehicle,” said Councilman Ralph Fernandez.

“When I first saw ‘Charger’ it led me to believe it was a black and white... even then I thought it was pretty expensive,” especially as the vehicle would still require law enforcement equipment and accessories.

Hernandez agreed, noting he also thought the vehicle was for street patrol officers.

“I’m struggling,” because patrol cars also have high mileage and are in need of replacement.

Added Hernandez, “I’m not in favor of it... if it was a cruiser,” he would approve the purchase.

Police, said Vice Mayor Jim Tovias, “You are doing an excellent job... if that is what you’re saying is what you need let’s give it to you.”

Cordero said the new Dodge will be “pursuit rated... it’s actually a police package vehicle,” that could be converted in the future into a black and white patrol unit.

“The Dodge makes sense because we have Dodges now,” he noted, and per past practice parts can be interchanged.

Gonzales asked, “Is this vehicle going to be used by detectives, be for a narcotics unit, I don’t understand... “

“As it stands,” said Cordero, “it will be given to a detective sergeant if he so chooses to take that vehicle.” 

Present staff cars, he added, have 81,000 miles to 160,000 miles.

Asked Gonzales “Are we building more cars into our budget?” 

Cordero said last fiscal year the vehicle allocation was $65,000, down $30,000 from the previous year’s budgeted $95,000 and is now $45,000 for the present fiscal year.

Mayor Rick Cook told Cordero he understood the concern of the council and, “I support whatever you want, but I would think we’re going to need more black and whites,” and should plan for same.

“I’m going to vote for it,” but Fernandez asked for assurances that the purchase would be reexamined “To see if it’s the best deal we can get... “

“Hopefully,” said Cook, “staff reads between the lines of what’s been going on... “

Hernandez cast the lone nay but the purchase was approved 4-1.

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