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Rincon tries to keep patrol cars out on the road
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The Rincon Police Department is embarking on a stringent new set of guidelines for upkeep of its cars, Chief Michael Berry said.

Some of the department’s fleet of vehicles has been plagued by problems, and Berry hopes a new preventive maintenance program can alleviate it.

“We’re going through alternators left and right,” he said. “We’re jumpstarting cars left and right. It’s embarrassing.”

Cameras and computers in the cars are draining the batteries, Berry said, and that in turn is causing problems with the alternators.

“I don’t think preventive maintenance was conducted as it should have been,” he said. “I hope the stricter standards of preventive maintenance I’ve got in place will help.”

The department is moving officers around from car to car as problems arise among the vehicles, Berry said.

City council approved putting three cars into surplus — one patrol car, one unmarked car and the former chief’s vehicle. The marked police vehicle has 131,000 miles and has a hard time getting to 45 mph, Berry said. It’s on its second alternator.

“It has big electrical problems,” he said. “We’re having trouble starting it.”

It’s also having transmission problems.

The unmarked car, a 1998 Ford Mustang, also has issues with its electrical system. Even though it’s unmarked — it was obtained through condemnation of assets — it can’t be used as an undercover vehicle, Berry said.

A Ford Taurus assigned to former chief David Schofield has 96,000 miles on it and has to have its engine replaced.

“We also don’t have a need for it,” he said.

Berry also said he doesn’t plan on putting in a request for unmarked cars in the coming budget. City council policy has been to replace two police department vehicles a year, according to Council member Paul Wendelken.

He does plan on asking the city council, either in the 2009 or 2010 budget, for either a pickup or sport utility vehicle. The tornado that ripped through Ebenezer in March showed Berry a need for vehicles that could get through areas that might be flooded or difficult to travel.

“I’ve been working on a grant for an SUV or a pickup for emergency management issues,” he said. “Right now, we don’t have anything that will go through water.”