Another D.C. emergency agency is facing questions over the reliability of its vehicles. This time it's Metropolitan Police, who admit that nearly 1 in 4 of their vehicles are past their recommended retirement age. But is that translating into a safety issue?
There is a good chance some D.C. police cars have been on the road longer than planned. In fact, the department acknowledges it is playing catch-up in terms of modernizing its fleet.
About 336 vehicles, or 24-percent of its fleet, will be pounding the pavement, protecting and serving past their preferred retirement window of five years or 100,000 miles, adding to maintenance costs.
“It’s a real problem,” says Kristopher Baumann, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. “This is the sort of thing that can’t happen yet continues to happen in D.C. This isn’t a new problem.”
“If you look at the street… what I call eyeball research you can see a lot of new equipment on the streets,” says Mayor Vincent Gray.
The new cruisers slashed the number of cars needed to be phased out in half since last year. The Metropolitan Police Department says even if the older units still in service require additional maintenance, the department operates at 95-percent readiness.
“I do think it’s a good start to cut the old cars and bring some new modern cars here,” says Chontrelle Gregory of Washington.
“Safety is first. Means of transportation is very important. Maintenance of the cars needs to be upgraded,” says Steve Buckson of Washington.
In his new budget, Mayor Gray is seeking an additional $7.2 million to continuing updating the District’s first responder fleet.
“We have a plan that over three years we’ll be on schedule with all of the vehicles in MPD and FDEMS,” says Mayor Gray.
The Police Union blames Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who used to have an oversight of the police department, for allowing the fleet situation to become an issue. But one of the rank-and-file officers praises the maintenance team and says the fleet is the newest he’s seen in his decade-and-a-half on the force.