WatchSonoma Watch

New wheels for county law enforcement


The sun is setting on the iconic police cruiser, Ford’s Crown Victoria, and its first slick replacement has hit Sonoma County streets.

A sheriff’s deputy is now cruising the north county beat behind the wheel of a prototype Police Interceptor, Ford’s 2013 model based on the four-door Taurus with a battery of improvements from engine to aesthetics.

“It’s like going from a rotary phone to a smartphone,” said David Worthington, the county’s assistant fleet manager.

Dave Head, fleet manager for Sonoma County Fleet Operations Division, stands between the Ford Police Interceptor Sedan, front, and the Ford Interceptor Utility, back. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

Dave Head, fleet manager for Sonoma County Fleet Operations Division, stands between the Ford Police Interceptor Sedan, front, and the Ford Interceptor Utility, back. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

The county bought 14 Interceptor sedans and four SUV models during the last fiscal year and will gradually blend them into the fleet over the next 10 months. It expects to completely convert the patrol fleet to the Interceptor within about four years.

The last “Crown Vic” rolled off the line in 2011 after more than two decades of being the nation’s preferred cop car. With a V6 engine and rear-wheel drive, the Crown Vic was known for durability. But beneath the classic silhouette, the Crown Vic was sorely in need of an update, Worthington said.

Gone are the days of careening around corners on two wheels as in the movies, fleet manager Dave Head said. The Interceptors are all-wheel drive, a boon on the county’s more rugged areas, and have an on-board computer system that adjusts suspension among other things to provide greater stability, Head said.

Perhaps the greatest concern among the rank and file is whether the tallest and broadest deputies — and about 15 pounds of protective gear and weapons they wear — will fit into the new cars.

The Interceptor certainly appears more sleek than the boat-like Crown Vic, with a black, instead of beige, interior.

Jeff Cortner, who supervises the county’s auto technicians, said they took out measuring tape and compared the two models.

The Interceptor came out ahead in all but three categories. The new cars have about 2.25 inches less headroom, a half-inch less room for shoulders and the doors open with an inch less width.

But the driver’s seat in the new car is 2.5 inches higher off the ground than the Crown Vic’s, which could make it easier to get in and out of the cruisers. The foot well is 1.25 inches longer and a passenger behind the driver has nearly 2 more inches of legroom.

The windows are smaller, particularly in the back.

The county’s auto techs spent about five months of tinkering and tuning. On Wednesday, Cortner opened the back passenger door of a second Interceptor his team is working to get road ready.

The car didn’t have back seats because county technicians were installing two sturdy steel support bars that are designed to bolster the car so it can withstand being rear-ended at 75 mph, Cortner said.

The county worked with a Sparks, Nev., company to design custom plastic bucket seats for the back, where prisoners sit, to give the driver more room.

Deputy John Blenker patrols about 400 square miles in the county’s north, including rough, winding roads like Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs, Rock Pile and Ida Clayton.

Blenker started his career with Sonoma County in the boxy Crown Vic, a precursor to the curvy body introduced in the early ’90s.

Four unused Crown Victorias remain in the county’s fleet ready to be cycled in as patrol cruisers retire.

The average patrol car travels about 30,000 miles each year and is retired after 90,000 miles, Head said.

Blenker, who is 6-foot-1, said the space in the new car is fine and the visibility could be better. But the major benefit is the way the car handles Sonoma County’s rutty, windy, rural roads.

“It handles the roads amazingly — and I’m not getting a kickback from Ford,” Blenker said. “I just like a good car. This is our office. We have to be in it 11 hours a day.”

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

11 Responses to “New wheels for county law enforcement”

  1. Snarky says:

    ANOTHER example of “law & order” guys.

    Thanks to the FBI, a COP was detected in his plot with another freak to abduct, rape, torture, murder, and the cannibalize (eat) their various female victims.



    Remember that as you sit on a jury and listen to the man with the badge! Cops are caught in FELONIES every day.

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  2. Graeme Wellington says:

    steveguy, I have to paraphrase the old Los Angeles Chief Bill Parker, i.e., we’ll always have problems like this because we have one big problem in selecting police officers: we have to recruit from the human race.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  3. Steveguy says:

    Graeme, seems awhile. I totally agree, so do my cop friends. The quality of beat cops is atrocious.

    GAJ- I get called a “cop hater” when I point out that any good cops will admit that between 20-30% of cops shouldn’t be cops, besides the waste of resources because of ‘grant money’.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  4. Give it a rest says:

    When you continually spout off about that which you have absolutely no knowledge of you are just ignorant. When you must slam the cops every post it makes you a cop hater. I am under no illusion that arguing with you will be productive but in the interest of balance here goes:

    Fleet management is relatively simple. They buy cars in bulk(bid process for low price) based on average usage and life span. When cars break or are damaged by accident spare cars are inserted into the fleet (thus 4 cars in reserve). This beats the heck out of buying cars at full price one at a time as they are needed.

    Cars have a life span and must be continually replaced. That means they must buy cars each year. As model years change, technicians must outfit cars with specific equipment. Cops do not have any control over model year changes or equipment changes like radio and screen dimensions. Agencies do not have exactly the same equipment so techs outfit a car and road test the set-ups. The suggestion to let another agency work the bugs out is ignorant.

    I could go on but again I think it is wasted. Just say I hate the cops and I don’t like buying them anything. At least that would make you honest.

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  5. Snarky says:


    The person who operates this Press Demo board is the one calling you a “cop hater.”

    I posted a rebuttal also and you notice its not showing but yours is?

    The Press Demo employee feels it appropriate to call people “cop haters” but when I rebutted that “cop WORSHIPPERS” are weak people, he confirmed that by not allowing my post to be published.

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  6. GAJ says:

    Let’s see, I’m a “cop hater” because I object to buying new Police Cars when there are four already in the fleet with virtually zero miles on them ready to go?

    Why were those cars purchased and warehoused in the first place then?

    Complete inventory mismanagement should not be applauded.

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  7. Snarky says:

    “Give It A Rest” snivels about “cop haters.”

    “COP WORSHIPPERS” are far weak people who need a psychological crutch in life to lean on.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  8. Graeme Wellington says:

    I’d like to see upgrades in the actual police officer. The last of the high integrity officers are retiring out and being replaced with younger and ethically challenged new officers. Of course we had to lower our integrity standards to hire any officers at all nowadays.

    The ramifications of the loss of integrity of our police will be far reaching. We can restore a bunch of 1966 Dodge Polara Police Pursuit vehicles to modern perfection a lot cheaper than buying a RoboCop Taurus and a lot easier than finding people of high integrity that still want to be officers.

    There can’t be too many left. Especially with all the abuse officers tolerate today with no recourse or remedy. You can’t even go to court without mini-trials of the officer witnesses these days.

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  9. Give it a rest says:

    Getting pretty routine – first two posts are the same two cop haters every time. Sad.

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  10. GAJ says:

    If they have four unused Crown Victorias why in the heck are they not using them first?

    Let some other force spend their money to work out the “bugs” on the new models.

    Logic seems to escape County decision makers at every turn.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

  11. Snarky says:

    Speaking of law enforcement, ANOTHER criminal cop got caught.

    And no, its not the Santa Rosa Junior College cop who has agreed to plead guilty to theft of public funds.

    And no, its not the Asst Chief of the Central Division California Highway Patrol office who is being prosecuted for multiple felonies related to helping his already convicted rapist son escape to Mexico.

    Read the Times excerpt below. Its a high ranking PROBATION OFFICER who slipped and let his criminal side get exposed.

    L.A. Times (online)
    Feb 21, 2013

    “A top L.A. County Probation Department executive who once was a state assemblyman has agreed to plead guilty to federal bank fraud charges, admitting he bilked financial institutions out of nearly $200,000 by falsely claiming to be an identity theft victim.

    Carl Washington, a division chief of intergovernmental relations and legislative affairs, has agreed to plead guilty to three counts of bank fraud..”

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