Last month, the Branch County Sheriff’s Office put six new 2022 Ford Explorer patrol cars in service.
Undersheriff Keith Eichler said you couldn’t tell the difference from the older cars, “except for the size. The new ones are wider.”
The cars are part of the planned rotation of road vehicles.
“This will give most everybody newer vehicles,” Eichler said. “I still have one deputy who’s driving a 2017. It’s got 110,000 miles on it.”
There is also a 2019 with about 90,000 miles on it.
Keeping road patrol deputies in a safe vehicle is a priority.
“Others in the department still have older cars, a 2015 that we’re still driving,” he said. “Also, for marine patrol, I still have 2010 vehicles that we’re still using.”
The department plans to replace a 2008 truck. The new one “hasn’t been built yet,” Eichler explained. The older truck “runs good. It’s just beaten up because it’s been in several accidents. It’s just not getting fixed because it costs too much money. It looks rough.”
Branch County purchased the Ford Explorers from Signature Ford in Perry, Mich.
“It beats any of the dealers locally,” the undersheriff said. The county does have a buy-local policy. “But when I go local to buy a vehicle, they want $7,000 more. I can go an hour and a half up north, get new cars, and they bring the new cars to us. And save $7,000 per vehicle. That’s wise spending for the county’s money,” Eichler said.
The county paid $34,000 for the Ford Explorers. All are police interceptors, police package vehicle suspension, wired for all the police electronic equipment, computers, and radios.
Eichler buys them “bare bones, then I buy the equipment to put in them.” The $15,000 per vehicle is cheaper “than for me to buy the vehicle from the production line with all that installed in it.” Some items can be transferred, but changes in interiors and sizes require a custom fit.
“I’ve got to be able to put the deputies in a safe vehicle without it rattling and shaking and the wheels falling off going on the road to an emergency call,” Eichler said.
Department policy assigns each of the 11 road patrol officers their vehicle.
The department recently sold one Ford Explorer to the Branch County Memorial Airport for $7,000 to use as a courtesy car for pilots who fly into Coldwater.
The red and blue lights were changed to airport yellow. Airport manager Joe Best said drivers are warned about the powerful police interceptor engine. The airport also will consider obtaining a second department car for visiting pilot use as air traffic continues to build back in Branch County.