SERGEANT JAMES POST
Coming soon to a multiplex near you: “The Acopalypse.”
Opening scene: Tom Cruise, in a somewhat grungy police uniform, walks down a debris littered city street, past burnt-out businesses, numerous abandoned tents and shopping carts, until he spots what he’s looking for – an abandoned several years old police cruiser. It sits between two burnt-out units, although graffiti covered and sitting on four cinder blocks, this one is relatively intact. Officer Cruise opens a door and begins searching for any usable police equipment he can salvage.
As he searches without luck, a Prius bearing his department’s logo and the text “Community Service Unit: We’re Here to Help” passes by. It is occupied by a college age couple neatly dressed in civilian attire who identify themselves as a male and a female. They slow, wave and continue on, while not so subtly suppressing smiles as they return to their (now legal) cannabis lunch break.
Officer Cruise, finding nothing of use in the interior, finally gives up and continues on down the street where he finds a couple more abandoned patrol units. Tom doesn’t know why the cruisers were abandoned. They may have simply died at 300+ miles or stopped because they lacked the parts necessary to keep them running, or they just simply ran out of gas. As he begins his search for anything usable, he really doesn’t care what brought these noble machines to this end; he’s just doing his job.
Officer Cruise still walks the same foot beat he has for years. At first, he felt this “salvage” assignment was demeaning, but he eventually accepted it. In fact, he has actually adapted to the “new normal” as he walks past boarded up and vacant businesses whose owners have fled. Gone also are the great smells of food carts selling hot dogs and pretzels, replaced now by odors from trash bags littering the sidewalks. Fortunately, the COVID-19 mask Tom has been wearing since the 19th variant blocks most of the noxious fumes. Even the firehouse where Tom always found a clean bathroom and a welcoming hot cup of coffee is vacant and boarded up as the firefighters were relocated to the affluent neighborhoods.
Tom’s beat is actually quietly serene now. There are no more businesses to rob or cars to jack, and the CSU crews handle all the calls for service, so Tom patiently walks his beat towards his “twenty” (scene ends/fade to black).
Where Do We Go from Here?
My anagram of the word “apocalypse” was fully intentional; I feel law enforcement may be at the abyss. Violent crime is off the charts and criminal gangs freely ravage and loot businesses; carjackers and muggers operate freely in daylight; random violent assaults are perpetrated with utter disregard; all because blue city and state prosecutors and DAs ignore sentencing and bond statutes while liberal parole boards are more concerned about prison overcrowding than public safety.
Cops are certainly on the endangered list. Large numbers of retirements and resignations are a direct result of nationwide “civil” disturbances (aka riots) prompted by the death of George Floyd, as well as the subsequent defunding of police departments in sanctuary cities across the country. Layoffs and COVID-related terminations have also depleted departments to critical levels. To complicate things, recruitment efforts are becoming a futile waste of time as the nightly news and social media discourages eligible young men and women from applying.
At one point, some 9000 NYC employees were laid off for refusal to comply with COVID orders (masks or vaccine). Ultimately, 36 NYPD and 25 FDNY personnel were terminated. In a scenario repeated across this country, we recently read that 12 Massachusetts state troopers and one sergeant were terminated for refusal to vaccinate. Because of COVID mandates and other concerns, some 2600 NYPD officers retired/resigned in 2020, 144 in Portland and another 219 from Seattle. For all of 2020, American police retirements were up 45% and resignations up 18%.
The shortages on every shift are not the only concerns officers live with daily. Line of duty deaths are rising at a catastrophic rate – 2020 counted 414 total (50 from firearms); 2021 increased to 607 deaths (64 by firearms); and by April of 2022, there have been 92 deaths (17 by firearms). Even LE K-9s have not been spared line of duty deaths, either, as seven have been killed already this year.
While the accuracy of COVID-19 death recording is being debated, American LE COVID deaths currently stand at: 414 in 2020, 430 in 2021 and 50 in 2022. Fortunately for officers’ families, COVID deaths are now considered duty-related.
Many other current developments (in the last 16 months) have had significant impacts on LE agencies and their responsibilities to their citizens. Included is a drastic shortage of vehicle replacements due to slow or halted assembly lines due to a shortage of parts and microchips. Departments are having to use vehicles two and three times past normal rotation. Used police cars are no longer an option to replace worn-out units, as their prices have increased by 40.5%. Wholesale tire prices have increased by 40% and retail tire prices by 10-15%. Goodyear®, who supplies many police vehicle tires, increased their prices a record four times last year!
What about fuel? Sixteen months ago, we were promised that the new administration would end fossil fuels and they’re doing their best with closed pipelines, fracking terminated, coal mines closed, drilling halted, and more. As of March 10, 2022, gas prices hit the highest price per gallon ever, breaking the previous record of 2008. The national average is $4.33 a gallon with West Coast prices of $7 to $9 and more. So, in the matter of a scant 16 months, we have gone from gas and oil independence to possibly buying oil from Venezuela and Iran!
Another concern for all Americans, particularly law enforcement, is the surge of illegals streaming across our Southern border due to this administration’s flawed and failed “open border” policy.
The Border Patrol reported that, in January of this year, 73% of those crossing were single males in their 20s and that number has increased to 76%. News broadcasts clearly show well-dressed, healthy men in new clothes and shoes, but among them are murderers, repeat offenders, convicted felons, sex offenders, and gang members, plus thousands of pounds of deadly illegal Fentanyl (estimated enough to kill 900,000,000 Americans) and countless illegal firearms.
Are You Ready for Some Good News?
While Police and Security News does one hell of a job keeping you appraised of the latest in vehicles, equipment, weapons, and protective gear, we can’t protect you from the next crisis coming at you, whatever that might be. But, what we can, and will, do in this column is give you our best ideas and tips on how to cope with current events and, hopefully, lighten the strain on your budgets and improve your officer’s working environment.
The great news from Brampton, Canada, is that production has slowly resumed on 2022 Pursuit Chargers and Durangos, while still hampered by parts and chip shortages, and ordering has now ceased. Civilian models already on order (some for as long as six months) are being built first to reboot dealers’ inventories. Naturally, they’re building high-end units with all of the bells and whistles, BUT they are still building 5.7 HEMI®s! If your budget can take the hit, in lieu of pursuit models, you might consider Charger and Durango R/Ts at dealers now. They have all the heavy-duty mechanics of the pursuits, but with a bunch of fancy civilian amenities. Pursuits for 2023 can be ordered until July and are scheduled to be built this fall.
New 2022 Chevy PPV Tahoe orders are slowly being delivered to departments in my area to fill long overdue orders. More good news…Chevrolet has announced a 2023 first-ever pursuit-rated Silverado which will be available in late summer of this year. It is a crew cab, short bed, 4WD designed for high speeds and with equipment which will make any off-roader jealous. It is equipped with a 355 hp V-8, backed by a ten-speed auto, Brembo™ brakes, 20″ Goodyear all-terrain tires, optional Rancho® shocks for a two inch lift, and skid plates. Safety features include Lane Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collison Alert, Following Distance Indicator, Pedestrian Braking, and Automatic High Beams.
There is apparently no shortage of Ford® Interceptor® Utilities coming from Chicago and the LE 150s are rolling off the lines in Kansas City. Ford’s Interceptor Utility continues to be the top-selling LE SUV in the field.
Tires and Gas
Being a petroleum-based product, we have no control over tire prices and will likely not see any price reductions until America once again becomes oil self-sufficient by opening pipelines, drilling and fracking, and ignoring the Green New Deal activists.
However, there is something you can do right now about tires…it’s called hoarding – pretend tires are the new toilet paper. If your department operates their own garage, start buying and stockpiling tires in the sizes you use. If you don’t have your own service facilities, ask the vendor you buy tires from if you can purchase tires now and stockpile them at their facility. New tires don’t have a “use by” date and only the vehicle manufacturers control tire sizes on their builds.
Gas price increases are the result of the actions of this administration listed previously. Unlike tires, however, you can’t hoard massive quantities of gas (unless you buy your own tanker), so we have compiled a list of gas saving tips gleaned from numerous sources.
- SLOW DOWN – Unless on emergency runs, advise your troops to slow down and avoid rapid acceleration. Driving 55 mph instead of 65 mph improves gas mileage as much as 15%. Departments operating Mopar® HEMI V-8s are fortunate because these vehicles feature MDS which switches the engine to four cylinders during normal conditions.
- CRUISE CONTROL – Although this primarily applies to highway patrols, cruise control smooths out speedups and slowdowns.
- IDLE TIME – Reduce idling whenever possible as this wastes fuel and increases engine wear. Officers should be instructed to shut off engines whenever possible – sitting any length of time, such as writing reports manually or on lap tops; at accident scenes; meal times; etc. The exception would be extremely hot or cold weather, particularly in K-9 units. Idling is easily monitored as most LE-rated vehicles feature idle meters.
- LIGHTEN THE LOAD – Police vehicles have to carry a heavy load, but, whenever possible, consider transporting extra or backup equipment in supervisors’ vehicles.
- REDUCE A/C USE – Air conditioning is the main contributor of reduced fuel economy. You’re already fighting an uphill battle with lightbars and the weight mentioned above. A/C use can reduce vehicle fuel economy by more than 25%, particularly on short trips such as patrolling a city beat. Open windows can also impact fuel economy, so the secret is alternating between the two.
- MAINTAIN YOUR FLEET – It’s been proven that a rigid maintenance schedule, enforced by regular inspections, will save fuel and add to your vehicle’s life. Oil changes, tire pressure and alignment, and replacing air filters will save you gas money. Manufacturers’ service schedules tend to be pretty liberal, so I would suggest shorter intervals than given, but using the recommended oil.
- TAKE-HOME UNITS – This topic probably won’t win me any friends, but as long as inflation and gas prices continue to rise, departments with take-home units should closely evaluate those programs now and many are. I’ve written about take-home units extensively, listing pros and cons, examples and experiences from departments across the country.
First off, I am in favor of these programs if a department can afford them; however, departments should consider modifying them until cooler heads prevail in DC and prices start falling. I believe personnel with 24 hour required response (detectives, SWAT, crime scene, and some commanders) should always have take-home units; however, I think other programs can be modified. I suggest patrol officers carpool for rides to work, while one of their units stays at the station until a tour starts. Simple math tells us that will save half the gas of two vehicles.
Of course, this wouldn’t work for state troopers or others who start their tours from home, but this suggestion could be tweaked as necessary to fit your needs. At least, it’s a start.
- DON’T DOWNSIZE – Don’t be tempted to hastily downsize to some compact econoboxes to save fuel. As an officer and car collector, I was frequently asked by parents what car I would recommend that they purchase for their teenager’s first car. An old adage frequently came to mind at that time: “A compact car will save you gas, but it won’t save your ass.” I always recommended used cruisers, particularly Crown Victorias. They were built like tanks and were almost indestructible, with the best accident rating of most domestic vehicles.
- AND THAT’S NOT ALL – As fuel prices soar, gas thefts across our country and Canada have increased dramatically and you’re not immune.
Most thieves we encounter are not that sophisticated, but they do use the latest technology. Sucking gas through a garden hose is old school. Using cordless drills, they simply drill holes in gas tanks or filler tubes and drain the tanks. Tall vehicles, such as pickups and SUVs, are particularly vulnerable as they’re easier to slide under and trucks often have a larger capacity tank or even twin tanks.
Police departments are certainly not exempt from these thefts. Vehicles parked behind stations, in back lots, or at service garages overnight are tempting targets, especially the SUVs. And, gasoline thefts are not all you have to worry about with a stationary fleet…expensive catalytic convertor and aluminum driveshaft thefts continue to be a nationwide phenomenon. A Harris County, TX, deputy was shot and killed in March when he attempted to stop thieves stealing his catalytic convertor in a retail parking lot.
If you disagree with my observations of the current state of affairs in the country most of us swore to protect, please don’t blame this publication or my editor. Blame the grumpy old retired sergeant with way more calendars behind him than in front.
James Post is a 27 year veteran of law enforcement and has written this column for over 22 years. He always welcomes your comments and suggestions and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.