In an ongoing effort to improve its fleet management, the city-parish has replaced 74 police cars with new units, the first few dozen of which hit the streets this week.
The Dodge Chargers cost an average of $39,000 each, including accessories and equipment, and will help lower the average mileage of the Baton Rouge Police Department’s aging fleet. Some 43% of the departments vehicles now have fewer than 30,000 miles, compared to just 19% in 2015.
While new police cars may sound like a luxury in a cash-strapped city—sales tax collections were down in June over the previous year and overall revenues for the year to date are lower than projected—city-parish officials say there is a direct correlation between the age of the department’s fleet and its ability to retain qualified officers.
“After police pay, the condition of vehicles and equipment is the number two problem we have with retention,” says Chief Administrative Office Darryl Gissel.
A newer fleet also saves money in the long run because of lower maintenance costs.
“We’ve allocated every penny we can to this,” Gissel says. “It gives the officers better equipment and it keeps them on the street because they’re not wasting time while their vehicles are in the shop.”
Though the 74 new vehicles represent just a little more than 10% of the BRPD’s 726-unit fleet, prior to the recent purchase, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s administration had already replaced more than 170 of the department’s oldest vehicles.
Gissel cannot say how much the fleet upgrade will save in the long run. But earlier this year, a government efficiency consultant said better fleet management practices throughout the BRPD and all city-parish departments could help save several millions of dollars.