Law enforcement officers face challenges in obtaining vehicles, supplies – Jamestown Sun

JAMESOWN – Supply chain issues force the Jamestown Police Department and the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office to plan ahead to find vehicles, equipment, and other supplies.

Jamestown Police Department is having trouble finding patrol vehicles, said Jamestown Police Chief Scott Edinger.

“They’re just not available,” he said. “We tried to order, we got some of the cars we ordered lately, but we weren’t able to replace an unmarked car with a patrol car, one designed for police work.”

The Jamestown City Council approved Monday, March 7, the purchase of a 2021 Dodge Durango for more than $50,400 for police that will replace a 2011 Chevrolet Impala. Edinger told the city council on Monday that the purchase price is a little high, but it was already equipped with lights, radios, a center console and other equipment.

The trade-in amount for the Impala also goes towards the purchase of the Durango. Edinger said police recently traded in a 2011 Chevrolet pickup that needed repairs to the four-wheel drive, front end and electrical system.

“We got an offer of $18,200,” he said. “So I imagine we’re probably going to get a pretty good offer on this car. We’ve been looking after the transmission for a number of years.”

Edinger said it will be difficult to replace up to four vehicles next year. He said there are two larger dealerships that generally have hundreds of vehicles, but now there are only ten.

“I’m not sure what we’re going to do with this at that point,” he said.

He said changes to the state law a few legislative sessions ago meant the department had to start budgeting for vehicles about 18 months before it planned to buy them. He said the department has to estimate a higher amount for the vehicles because their cost is unknown 18 months later, taking inflation into account.

“Then when we have the final budget, a lot of that stuff actually comes from where the estimated tax returns are,” he said.

He said an estimated tax return to city and county residents is what the proposed city and county budgets are in August each year.

Edinger said the department needs to determine which vehicles are cheaper. He said the department could get a quote from one dealership that’s, say, $3,000 less than another, but it could get more expensive if all the other equipment is bought and installed separately.

“We have to look at a lot of factors to determine which one is actually cheaper,” he said.

Edinger said nearly all vehicles have increased by about $10,000 since the coronavirus pandemic. He said many government fleet discounts have also disappeared.

“It can range from $500 to maybe $3,000 or $4,000, depending on the make, model, and year. And those discounts are pretty much gone,” he said. “Between just the price increase since COVID plus those discounts that disappear and the rarity of the vehicles, it has become very expensive.”

In conjunction with the vehicle price increase, vehicle orders are also canceled by the manufacturer without notifying the department. Edinger said the department has to constantly check that the orders for the vehicles are still in and that the department is still getting them.

He said a vehicle reserved for 2023 may not appear until 2025. He said the department has bid on a few vehicles so they can have them on hand in the event of an accident or another vehicle that needs major repairs.

“What happened was an order was canceled and we don’t know when it was canceled because by the time we checked we would have received it, but we didn’t hear about it,” he said. “Then we found out that the order had been cancelled. Now we have to order again and now it takes longer to get them and now we are almost a year on the way.”

He said an ordered Chevrolet pickup arrived very quickly, but when the department received a quote for a Chevrolet Tahoe, they were told it would be a 2023 model.

“And that was several months ago (in October),” he said.

Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser said the Stutsman County Commission approved the purchase of two vehicles last fall, which are not prepackaged with law enforcement equipment, and hopes the Sheriff’s Office will receive them by the end of April.

“There is a lot of preparation that we have to do now,” he said. “Ordering police pack vehicles, although we have three, they are harder (to find).”

He said vehicles in general are hard to get, as well as some equipment that goes in or on them.

“Some things you can get right away, but others you have to plan in advance and get your order well in advance,” he said. “You know if you need a vehicle or need to replace that equipment, you have to order it well in advance to get it here on time.”

Kaiser said the trade-in value was good for the provincial vehicles. If another agency in Stutsman County needs a vehicle, the Sheriff’s Office gives the vehicle to the other agency.

Problems using older vehicles

Edinger said the problem when police forces have to use older vehicles is the higher maintenance costs. He said all patrol vehicles come with a 100,000-mile warranty.

“So if we drive over 100,000 miles and an engine cuts out, there’s a $10,000 bill,” he said. “And it’s not like you can keep driving it for another 10,000 miles, because now we’re going to start with CV joints and more general problems with changing brakes for a different period, bearings, electrical problems, problems with the cooling system. It ends up being a huge expense and we only get a small benefit from it.”

He said law enforcement vehicles are driven in a different way. He also said there have been more chases in the past 10 to 12 years.

“So with that increase, that’s more wear and tear,” he said. “The harder the weather is, the more wear and tear there is. We now use a lot of electronics in these cars.”

He also said vehicles should continue to drive so agents are not logged out of programs, which takes 10 minutes to get back in.

“You can’t always take them out,” Edinger said. “If you’ve ever tried to boot your laptop when it’s 20 degrees below zero, it won’t boot.”

He said there are computer programs that allow agents to stay logged in, but that also costs money.

“We’re always evaluating things to determine the cheapest and most efficient way to tackle the problems we face all the time,” Edinger said. “Now that fuel prices are rising, that computer program seems much more economical, but I guarantee that the company running that program also understands that it is worth more, so they are driving the price up.”

Difficulty getting other supplies

Edinger said police are struggling to get rubber gloves, more reliable computers and even ammunition.

“Ammunition is just cruel to get and the cost has gone up by double digits every year,” he said. “Training, when everything goes up, food up, gas up, motel rooms up. So our training has gotten more expensive. We’re trying so hard to keep costs down, but you’re fighting everything that has to do with inflation.”

Kaiser said that ammunition is also difficult to find and takes longer to get. The price has gone up for it too, he said.

“We’re probably used to waiting now,” he said. “Nowadays we are used to ordering in advance and getting used to waiting.”

Edinger said another problem with finding vehicles and other items is the hours it takes to find a better price. He said he spent at least 40 hours looking for a suitable unmarked patrol vehicle.

“The supply chain issues are very frustrating at the moment,” he said. “I think people see that everywhere.”

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