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Police defend new truck purchase

Nelson’s police chief insists the department’s new pick-up truck was purchased in a “responsible, budget conscious manner,” despite criticism from a citizen who calls it a “ridiculously wasteful undertaking.”
Cst. David Laing with the Nelson Police Department’s new truck. One citizen claims its purchase was “extravagant

Nelson’s police chief insists the department’s new pick-up truck was purchased in a “responsible, budget conscious manner,” despite criticism from a citizen who calls it a “ridiculously wasteful undertaking.”

The 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 was put in service last Thursday. According to Chief Wayne Holland, they actually came in below the overall $60,000 budget to buy and outfit the truck, although he couldn’t say by how much.

The vehicle itself cost $26,000 while another $5,000 was spent installing a computer and modem. Other special equipment was also added at the city garage, including a “prisoner containment area.”

The vehicle replaced a 2005 model with about 154,000 km on it, but more than 10,000 “engine hours,” which Holland says is the equivalent of a vehicle with 300,000 to 400,000 km.

Policy dictates that operationally deployed police vehicles which are used around the clock, such as this one, be replaced after 150,000 km or five years.

Holland says the old truck was in the city garage many times this year, and had “rear differential issues and wear and tear way beyond the wear and tear of a privately owned vehicle or that of another city department.”

Maintaining the truck was costing 100 per cent more annually than when they bought it, Holland says, which further prompted the move. The old truck will either be used by the city for less demanding duties or auctioned off. Some parts were also salvaged for reuse.

However, in a letter to the Star (published in full here), Jill Wilson questions the purchase of the new truck in light of recent transit cuts.

“The money spent on this … ridiculously wasteful undertaking should be redirected to areas that are either experiencing a shortfall now or in danger of a shortfall,” she wrote.

“People, countries, provinces, and yes, even cities are realizing the need to redistribute money that may have been set aside for extravagant items.”

Holland responds that the purchase was mandated for safety reasons and purchased for the department “in a responsible, budget conscious manner that the City should be praised, not criticized for.”

Contrary to a statement in Wilson’s letter, he says the vehicle was not special ordered, but is a model that can be bought off the lot by anyone.

Wilson also took issue with the black and white paint job the truck received, and is concerned about the rest of the fleet being painted to match.

In a comment aimed at city council, she wrote: “To think that the ones who are running our ‘household’ seem to not be able to control their spending power so would rather buy unnecessary expensive vehicles and waste even more money repainting all other vehicles to match the new one.”

But Holland says the truck is the only one being painted this year. Furthermore, he says the colour scheme is one which other municipal police departments across North America have embraced in recent years.

“It is eye catching. Most police vehicles were of a basic white design over the past several years. They sometimes blend in with traffic. This colour scheme is a bit of a surprise to people, and as a result, people are aware we are present. This is both a deterrent to criminals as well as a beacon to those citizens who many need to approach us for help.”

Holland recalls when police cars were actually called “black and whites” and says police may have been perceived as less busy and more approachable in those days.

“We want our citizens to know we are there and to feel free to approach us.”

He adds Wilson’s letter is the first complaint he has heard about the new look — otherwise he has received “overwhelming” praise from citizens and employees.

The truck is one of two in the police department’s fleet. City council quizzed the deputy chief about its necessity before including it in the annual budget.