HPD’s blue-and-white fleet gets green streak
The department will enlist the services of hybrid Toyota Camrys
Although the Honolulu Police Department will unveil the Toyota Camry as its experimental hybrid car today, that move represents only a baby step toward fuel efficiency in the department.
The 2009 Camry C-4020 Hybrid 4-cylinder sedan gets 33 mpg, according to a bid proposal, compared with 20 mpg Ford Crown Victoria currently in service. Servco Pacific won the bid over Rainbow Chevrolet.
The Honolulu Police Department is buying six Camrys for the federally funded pilot project. But even if HPD outfits its entire blue-and-white fleet of 300 cruisers with hybrids, that's less than a quarter of the 1,300 vehicles the department subsidizes.
The Police Department consumes 135,000 gallons monthly and pays less than $4 a gallon, but that cost is likely to go up. HPD did not provide the exact price.
Officers with subsidized cars are allotted a gallon of gas for every 10 miles traveled on duty, which is set by contract agreement with the police union. That includes round-trip travel from home to the station.
HPD officials said the department switched two years ago to 89 octane fuel from 92 octane fuel.
Police officials also say the department has been allowing officers to purchase smaller vehicles with more efficient gas mileage for several years now in anticipation of rising gas prices. They also note the department has taken mega-guzzlers like the Chevy Suburban and the Dodge Durango off the approved list.
But a look at the 2008 subsidized vehicle list, approved by HPD and the police union, shows five sport utility vehicles and six larger sedans, including luxury models like the Infiniti G35. (HPD officials were unable to provide the numbers and breakdown by type of subsidized vehicles officers were currently driving.)
The approved Ford Explorer and the Chevy Trailblazer get 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway.
Fuel costs are affecting the department, which has set aside $5 million for this fiscal year.
"One (dollar) out of every $6 in operating budget goes to gas," said Maj. Frank Fujii. "So we are very concerned. It could have ramifications on programs."
And higher gas prices also hurt officers who use their subsidized vehicles for personal use and must pay for the gas for off-duty use.
"The hybrids seem to be the hot topic now," said SHOPO Honolulu Chapter Chairman Stanley Aquino. "The members want to go towards the savings end of it because they still have to pay for their gas off-duty."
Vehicles have to be durable since police driving is on the rugged side, he said, and emphasized that officers bear the burden of paying for maintenance of subsidized vehicles.
A recent departmentwide survey revealed officers are asking for smaller cars and allowing the use of 4-cylinder vehicles. Some have suggested officers simply turn off car engines while writing reports or at a scene for an extended period of time.
For any vehicle to be approved, the department must consider the officer's and the public's safety, said Maj. Alan Bluemke.
Specifications must include sufficient trunk space, space to mount equipment, a minimum wheel base size for safety and having the capability to support running blue lights, sirens and laptop computers without draining the car battery.