KAILUA-KONA — New marked police SUVs are hitting Big Island streets, the first additions to the Hawaii Police Department’s fleet in over a decade.
Police Maj. Robert Wagner said Friday the department now has in its possession four of the 10 new Ford Explorer Police Interceptor Utility vehicles. Of the four that have arrived, three have been assigned to patrol in the island’s larger, more populated districts: One each in Hilo, Kona and Puna.
The fourth vehicle is being prepared for assignment as well, Wagner said.
“One vehicle comes in about once a month to us, so a few more months before we get them all,” he added.
The new Fords are the first marked vehicles to be added to the police department’s county-owned fleet in about a decade. Orchid Isle Auto Center is supplying the 10 six-cylinder, four-wheel-drive vehicles, each of which costs $61,502.07, or $615,020.70 in total.
The vehicles are wired for the department’s police radios and in-car computers. Each is fully equipped with lights, sirens and speakers, and comes under warranty and with decals already affixed. The price also covers additional options selected by the department, including locking rear cargo storage, mirror lightheads, mounted gun rack and computer mount.
The county first acquired marked police vehicles in 2008-09 when 33 sedans and SUVs, each costing $55,000 to $67,000, hit the roads. About two dozen remain in use, and the department has previously said it will continue to utilize older fleet vehicles that remain in “operable condition.”
The 2008-09 procurement followed the county instituting a Police Fleet Implementation Group to study setting up a fleet vehicle program to address questions over the department’s use of mostly unmarked vehicles lacking uniform paint, police emblems and other official markings.
Maui is the only county in the state with 100 percent use of fleet vehicles.
At the time, all officers drove their private vehicles and were reimbursed for furnishing it for police use.
The group recommended a switch to all fleet vehicles.
The county ultimately opted to implement a hybrid program with county-owned fleet cars and subsidized vehicles. That program remains in place today. Budgetary constraints kept police from expanding the fleet until 2018 when Mayor Harry Kim included funding for 10 vehicles in his 2018-19 budget.
Currently, officers are responsible for providing and maintaining their own vehicles that have to meet certain criteria set by the department, such as engine size. Officers receive a monthly subsidy of $600, and are expected to furnish an insured vehicle at all times. Each also receives a gallon of gas for every 10 miles driven on official duty.
However, discussion of transitioning to a full fleet vehicle system is back on the table.
In March, the county Cost of Government Commission submitted a report to Mayor Harry Kim’s office recommending conversion to fleet vehicles for the entire department. The commission estimated savings at $2 million over a five-year conversion process. That assumed use of existing county facilities to maintain the vehicles.
The report proposed purchasing 162 vehicles, or 40 percent of the number of personal vehicles in use.
The recommendation has yet to be presented to the County Council because the Mayor’s Office is working to submit its departmental responses in one package. Once compiled, it will be presented to the County Council.