CALIFORNIA CITY — A delayed order of two Ford Explorers and an aging fleet prompted the California City city council to send four police cruisers out for a thorough overall.
California City Police Lt. Jesse Hightower noted at the Oct. 28 meeting that manufacturing issues in part due to the pandemic pushed the order delivery from November to late December or early January.
In addition, other agencies, such as McFarland Police Department in the Central Valley have experienced similar problems.
“It’s not looking promising,” Hightower said.
Hightower said Police Chief Jon Walker contacted the police chiefs in McFarland and Ridgecrest, who referenced Walker to the Anaheim-based shop Wild Rose Motors. Wild Rose could refurbish a vehicle in a six-month turnaround period and extend its service life, according to Walker’s report.
For around $22,000 per unit, some of the CCPD’s retired Crown Victoria police cruisers could patrol the streets once more. That includes everything from new engines to new headlights and spotlights and a new interior job.
“That’s a godsend for us ... the interiors don’t last too long what with gear and things,” Hightower said. Each vehicle would also come with a three-year, unlimited mile warranty.
CCPD’s backlot currently contains a mothball of old vehicles described has having a lot of issues.
The council approved $100,000, to be paid from the city’s Fund 25 county half-cent tax account. As of August, the account had $264,838 in it earmarked for vehicles and other police-related expenses. The account generates around $10,000 a month, Hightower said.
“So what we want to do is take four, maybe five, of our Crown Vics,” CCPD Lt. Hightower said. “Have them towed down Anaheim and get this ball rolling so we can get new cars out there.”
Mayor Chuck McGuire, a retired CHP officer, noted the value of the project.
“This is a godsend for me because you are looking at a new vehicle, if you go with an SUV, it’s about fifty grand,” McGuire said. “We need cars now because some of those units that are on the road right now need to be pulled off the road and get worked on.”
The problem, McGuire said, is the city lacks replacements. He also pointed out that unlike most other cities, California City’s first responders cover a wide area — nearly 204 square miles.
Providing reliable vehicles would ensure officers can do their job safely without worrying.
“I don’t want to hear that they had to call for a tow because they broke down,” McGuire said.
CCPD currently fields eight vehicles that run continuously. Six of them are used on patrol, and the ones with the lowest mileage are assigned to Walker and Hightower.
Most of the other vehicles are already high mileage, with the “pride of the fleet” clocking nearly 190,000 miles. The next highest was 118,000 miles, followed by 103,000. The newer vehicles, SUVS — run between 55,000 and 91,000 miles.
“They’re increasing rapidly [in miles],” Hightower said. Like McGuire, Hightower noted the area covered takes its toll on vehicles. CCPD often needs to respond to areas on dirt roads or rough terrain within city limits.
“We’re having to go out there and doing that rough terrain,” Hightower said.
CCPD also uses a civilian car for court runs and two trucks previously assigned to OHV duties for suspect transport to the Mojave or Bakersfield jails.
Hightower said the six-week turnaround for a refurbished vehicle helps in the immediate future, without having to wait indefinitely. He added only the larger agencies, such as Los Angeles and New York, are getting their vehicles on a normal timeline.
“For us at the bottom of the barrel, we kind of have to wait,” he said. “Across the board, manufacturing is down and that affects our daily operations.”
Reaching out to the other police departments made sense, he added.
“Chief Walker, he reached out to some guys and he’s thinking outside the box,” Hightower said.
Councilman William Smith asked why the city doesn’t rotate its vehicles every few years like other municipalities. McGurie said the city attempted to do that, but met with resistance.
Hightower said sending four vehicles to start would make sense. CCPD could put them into service, see how they operate and consider the approach in a year or two.
When the council approved the expense, they placed $10,000 on top of the original $90,000 request to adjust for unforeseen costs, such as towing.
The council voted 4-0, with Councilman Nick Lessenevitch absent.
Mayor Pro Tem Don Parris and City Manager Anna Linn both confirmed Walker, the police chief, had connections to a towing company that would agree to transport the Crown Victorias to Anaheim for free as a donation to the city.