Board of Selectmen gives green light to new police cars
The Darien Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to approve a $74,000 transfer for new police vehicles during the Board's first regular meeting of the 2011 fiscal year. The transfer must also be approved by the Board of Finance before action can be taken.
The transfer covers the cost of three new vehicles to be added to the fleet, according to Darien Police Chief Duane Lovello. Two vehicles need to be replaced due to accidents, while the third vehicle would replace an unmarked car that has been put into regular rotation due to shortages.
One accident, which occurred in April, injured a lieutenant and totaled one of the department's SUVs.
"The other accident occurred on a midnight shift, on the Post Road where a patrol car struck a telephone pole and was totaled," Lovello said. "The officer involved sustained a pretty serious head laceration."
The second accident occurred on Tuesday, June 22, according to Capt. Fred Komm.
The loss of the two vehicles left a serious dent in the department's fleet, which typically consists of 10 marked vehicles, according to Lovello.
"So we had to take one of our unmarked vehicles and place it into service," he said. "That particular vehicle has high mileage and sustained damages from being rear ended by another vehicle, which caused some body damage and some mechanical damage.
"We're not fixing the body damage right now, because we needed to get it on the road quickly. ... It's likely going to be taken out of service because of the mechanical condition," Lovello said.
With the marked vehicle count down to eight, the department does not have enough cars and SUVs in its fleet to keep on the road during certain points in the day, Lovello said. This has resulted in using unmarked cars, which is less than ideal, according to the chief. Unmarked vehicles are not rated for pursuit as the marked vehicles are; they also do not have computers that come with marked vehicles, nor do they have the protective screenings between the front and rear passenger compartments, Lovello said.
"You might think having an unmarked vehicle is an advantage, and it may be in certain circumstances, but the deterrent effect of a marked vehicle has a big advantage as well," he said. "And traffic throughout town is very heave. We want to give the officers every safety advantage we can."
So the department requested a total of $73,609 to be allocated to purchase two SUVs and a Ford Fusion, according to a June 29 memo to the BOS, written by Lovello.
According to the memo, the SUV lost in the April accident will be replaced by a Chevrolet Tahoe Special Service vehicle, which will cost the town $13,878 after an insurance reimbursement of $32,252. The 2009 Crown Victoria totaled in the single-car crash will be replaced by a Chevrolet Tahoe Police 2WD, which will cost the town $32,430 after an insurance reimbursement of $13,700. The unmarked, 2004 Crown Victoria will be replaced by the Fusion, which will cost $27,300.
While the police department requested $133,240 for five police vehicles this fiscal year -- an amount that was approved in the BOS budget -- the line item received no funding from the BOF, according to budget documents.
"I think the Board sees it as a necessity and not a luxury. It's an unfortunate circumstance that didn't go according to plan," Lovello said.