Saskatoon

Saskatoon police phasing out cars in favour of SUVs

The Ford Taurus Police Interceptor will soon be a thing of the past on Saskatoon streets, as officials say the car is impractical.

Sedans too small for taller officers, police service and union say

Mitch Yuzdepski, deputy chief with the Saskatoon Police Service, stands next to a Ford Explorer at Saskatoon's police station late last month. He says the service is officially moving away from using sedans as police cars, as the service has found SUVs to be more practical. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC )

Police cars in Saskatoon may soon be a thing of the past.

The Saskatoon Police Service is in the process of phasing out its Ford Taurus in favour of sport utility vehicles (SUVs), as the smaller sedans have proven impractical for police work in Saskatoon.

The transition is already underway and soon the remaining sedans will reach the end of their lifespan. 

In 2014, the Saskatoon Police Service unveiled the new Ford Explorer and the Ford Taurus as the vehicles replacing the classic Crown Victoria.

"We've got members that are in all shapes and sizes right now, and quite frankly some of our taller members just simply can't function or can't work out of a sedan," said Deputy Chief Mitch Yuzdepski.

"Even an average-sized member, especially on a night shift where we typically have two-person patrols, simply can't comfortably work out of that space."

Eighty per cent of the police service's marked fleet is made up of SUVs, with only eight police sedans out of a total of 40 patrol vehicles on Saskatoon streets. He said the service is also examining the possibility of purchasing a pickup truck, something it currently doesn't have.

The cost difference between the sedan and the SUV is roughly $7,000, and the difference in size is noticeable when the doors open.

In the Taurus, an officer, who is usually wearing a duty belt that weighs upwards of 11 kilograms, will have to crouch down to enter and exit the vehicle, with a police computer and other equipment making for a tight fit.

In the back seat, where police may be dealing with a suspect, there's almost no room to move around. A passenger would need to keep their feet tucked tightly under the seat in front of them, and it's likely their knees would be touching it.

A Saskatoon police SUV can be seen in this photo. They make up 80 per cent of the fleet. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

In the SUV, there is more room in both the front and back.

"What we're hearing, pretty much across the board from our members, is you can't keep the sedans because they're not practical," Yuzdepski said.

The transition is welcomed by the Saskatoon Police Association, which represents roughly 500 police officers in Saskatoon.

"We are definitely in favour of moving toward the SUVs," said association spokesperson David Larocque. "They're a lot easier to access, to both get in and out, just because there's more room."

Ford's Police Interceptor is a beefed-up Ford Taurus. (CBC)

In April 2016, a police officer was injured by his computer after he hit a tree in one of the sedans. Larocque said it's possible the officer could have been injured either way, but said the SUV would have afforded the officer more space. 

He said the change to exclusively bigger vehicles should prevent injuries associated with the daily grind of police work.

"It costs a lot to have an officer not at work," he said. 

He said there are some taller officers who showed up to work early to sign out an Explorer over a Taurus, as spending a 12-hour shift in the smaller car was "excruciating."

The Saskatoon Police Service estimates it will have a fleet made up entirely of SUVs within the next three years. They service won't necessarily be only Explorers, police say, as Dodge and GMC both manufacture police SUVs.

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