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Officers await new rides

Staff writer

The police patrolled the neighborhood, hovering 30 feet above ground in their flying squad car with spotlights beaming down.

That’s how 2015 squad cars were depicted in the movie “Back to the Future Part II.” As Marion County law enforcement officers wait on the arrival of two 2015 vehicles, the emphasis is less on hover conversion technology and more on updated safety features.

Hillsboro’s Assistant Police Chief Jessey Hiebert and Sheriff’s Department Investigator Wilma Mueller will both receive new Ford Tauruses. Ford calls the vehicles Interceptors when customized for police use.

While not able to live up to the 1985 Hollywood prediction of flight capabilities, the cars will have increased safety features to ensure protection of officers driving and citizens driving around them.

Both vehicles were purchased from Hillsboro Ford. The Hillsboro Police Department vehicle cost $31,510 and the Sheriff’s Department vehicle cost $28,775. Hillsboro Ford sales manager Terry Hagen said Hillsboro’s squad car cost more because it features all-wheel drive and a backup camera, while the sheriff’s vehicle has front-wheel drive and no rearview camera.

It’s the first new car for the Hillsboro Police Department since 2012, whereas the sheriff’s department received one earlier this year.

The vehicles are expected to come in hopefully around the end of the year. Hagen said the vehicles are given government concession pricing and cost less than the listed prices for new Tauruses that civilians would buy. He also said they’re built more specifically with police action in mind.

“Everything is just built much more heavier-duty,” Hagen said. “They’re just a different creature specifically designed for police and security type use.”

Hiebert said his new car will also be more comfortable, with interior seats designed to accommodate the bulk of a police officer’s duty belt, for added comfort.

These features will help ensure safety for the officer and for the public around which the car will be driven, Hiebert said. The all-wheel drive will help for driving in snow or other bad weather, but the camera is a critical new feature to help avoid minor accidents.

“That’s where our patrol cars have been in collisions, just bumping into things while backing up,” Hiebert said. “When you have your car loaded down with the prisoner transport cage, especially if there’s a prisoner in there, it really limits what you can see backing up.”

At a Hillsboro City Council meeting when the vehicle bid was accepted, Police Chief Daniel Kinning told council that the backup camera “is one of those things where you don’t think you need it, but once you get it you’re really glad you have it.”

Rearview camera technology will be standard on all vehicles beginning in 2018.

Mueller and Hiebert were chosen as recipients of the cars based on the age and mileage of their old vehicles. Mueller said she currently drives a 2008 Chevy Impala. Hiebert said he drives a 2006 Dodge Charger.

“I’m a Ford guy anyway, so I’m kind of happy with the way it went,” he said.

Sheriff Robert Craft said vehicles from the sheriff’s department are replaced more often than those from city departments because sheriff’s office vehicles traverse the entire county, and get more miles on them sooner.

While the police cars in movies are known more for chases, the new vehicles aren’t chosen for speed or power. With 305 horsepower, the Interceptor’s top speed is 131 mph.

“The most important things are the safety of the officer and of the public around the vehicle,” Hiebert said.

Having each officer issued their own car, based not on rank but on need, instills a sense of responsibility that ultimately leads to the cars being better cared for.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re at on the rank system, if your car is old, you get the new one,” he said. “And that instills pride, if you issue an officer new equipment, they’re proud of it and they take care of it.”

Last modified Nov. 20, 2014

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