Little Rock will pay $36,624 to install additional air-conditioning vents in 14 newly purchased police vehicles after officials said not enough air was circulating to the back seat of the sport utility vehicles.
The need for more air, officials said, was discovered after safety partitions, dividers made of a combination of wire, plexiglass and metal to protect officers, were installed in the new patrol vehicles. In addition to separating the officer from the person being detained in the back seat, the partitions also blocked air from flowing to the back.
The Little Rock Police Department requested that the city’s Fleet Services install the rear-seat air-conditioning vents. This is the first time Little Rock has purchased vehicles in which a request for more air conditioning was made, according to information provided by city spokesman Jennifer Godwin.
The 14 vehicles are part of 30 new vehicles ordered for the Little Rock Police Department in February. Two of the SUVs are Ford Interceptor K-9 SUVs and the other 12 are Ford Interceptor Patrol SUVs.
Fleet Services Director Wendell Jones said that adding air-conditioning vents was an option when the cars were purchased, but it was not something they realized would be needed or was not part of the standard cost.
“We realized after you put the partition up, you aren’t going to get the air you needed,” Jones said.
Jones said he didn’t know how much it would’ve cost to buy the SUVs with the air-conditioning vents already installed in the back. Adding it will cost $2,616 per unit, and the money will come out of Fleet Services’ Insurance and Wrecks fund.
A K-9 unit was completed in mid-September, and the rest of the SUVs are currently being worked on. They are expected to be finished by the end of this month.
The 16 other SUVs ordered at the same time are not being equipped with additional air-conditioning vents because 15 vehicles are going to be used by detectives and one will be a communication sedan and will not be used to hold detained people.
Fleet Services is not the one installing the additions. Jones said the work was contracted out.
After equipment installation, the 30 vehicles cost a total of $?4?0?2?,?2?5?3?.?3?5 $1,169,594.20*, which includes lights, sirens, radio and satellite communication equipment, exterior detailing, cameras and other interior parts that do not come standard.
The department has 404 vehicles, and 367 of them are marked and unmarked patrol vehicles.
Last week, the city Board of Directors approved spending $1.5 million to buy an additional 33 new Ford Police Interceptor sedans and SUVs similar to the ones being fitted with rear-seat air conditioning. Those vehicles will include air conditioning for the back, Jones said.
The purchase of the 33 new vehicles comes after the Police Department’s independently run union, the Fraternal Order of Police, hired an out-of-state consultant to audit the Fleet Services Department. The audit stated that Fleet Services runs inefficiently and that the age and mileage of police vehicles is a problem.
Jarred McCauley, Fraternal Order of Police president, called the police cars “death traps” at a meeting in which the audit was presented to the city’s Fleet Services Department and four members of the Little Rock Board of Directors. Other officers at the meeting talked about driving cars with 200,000 miles or more that don’t have working air conditioners.