The Wichita Falls Police Department will be rolling out the first of 11 new patrol vehicles at the end of this week.
Sergeant John Spragins said the Ford Explorers arrived at Central Services at the end of Summer and multiple crews have been working to outfit them with everything they need to be put into service. Spragins has been working on customizing and purchasing the new vehicles for more than 2 years. He said, "We knew that the Crown Victoria's were going to be phased out by Ford and we were going to have to make some decisions. After testing and researching this is the package that we came up with."
The new vehicles are faster, bigger and more fuel efficient than the dated cruisers currently used by the department. Each Explorer has rear mounted lights that can be seen when the back hatch is open and blocking the lights on top. The interior is also designed so that everything is in easy reach. Steering wheel light controls and a forward mounted radio mean officers won't have to take their eyes off the road to find switches.
Spragins said the department did not have to apply for outside grants or ask for city funding to get their new units. He said, "This is something that is budgeted for each year we have a replacement of some of the cars in the fleet and some of them are retired after several years so it's an ongoing cost."
The department is also saving money by outfitting the cars in house at Central Services. Spragins said, "Everything is done in house, all the lights, the radios, the computers, everything is done by employees of the department or Central Services or Information Systems."
Spragins said officers are proud to have the new equipment and he hopes it brings a renewed sense of pride in the police department. The first Explorer is set to hit the streets by the end of this week, with 10 more as soon as their ready. Another bid for 11 more units will go out soon. Spragins said the department is hoping to have all 22 units on the road by early next year.