Fueling: The debate


POSTED: Saturday, September 26, 2009

Question: I was wondering what the minimum requirements are for police officers to use their personal vehicles on duty. It seems with the rise in gasoline prices, it would be irresponsible for police officers to keep using all types of vehicles for work. I have seen Toyota Camrys, Jeep SUVs and a host of other gas-guzzling SUVs being driven. I have even seen a few Special Edition Ford Mustangs. I am sure that if they did not get a vehicle subsidy or gas allowance, many of these officers would not even be driving these vehicles. Shouldn't it be limited to V-4 or V-6 engines since they aren't carrying passengers in the cars anyway?

Answer: When we asked about the Honolulu Police Department's subsidized vehicle program, we received 55 pages detailing the policy, as well as the list of approved vehicles, listed by year.

For now the specifications say the engine size of approved vehicles have to be eight cylinders or six cylinders, the latter “;acceptable,”; as long as they are “;the largest available for that model vehicle.”;

Four-cylinder engines are not allowed, unless the police chief authorizes use of a vehicle with a hybrid engine (gasoline/electric) that has a minimum of four cylinders.

In a Star-Bulletin article last year—archives.starbulletin.com/2008/09/18/news/story04.html—an HPD spokesman said the department must consider the safety of both the officer and the public in approving a personal vehicle for use on the job.

Among the factors considered, the article noted sufficient trunk space, space to mount equipment, a minimum wheel base size for safety and the capability to support running blue lights, sirens and laptop computers without draining the car battery.

Regarding fuel, the only policy requirement for approved vehicles is that they have gasoline engines.

In 2006, HPD began dispensing only 89 octane-level fuel, instead of 92 octane.

“;HPD is looking at ways to become more fuel-efficient,”; said spokeswoman Michelle Yu. “;In addition to piloting six hybrid Camrys (in its fleet), the department recently added certain 2009 four-cylinder hybrid models to the list of approved vehicles.”;

It appears police vehicles are consuming fewer gallons of gas.

In 2008 it was reported that HPD consumed 135,000 gallons monthly, paying less than $4 a gallon (exact figures were not available).

Asked for more current figures, Yu said that in fiscal year 2009 HPD dispensed about 128,000 gallons of gas per month at an average cost of $2.50 per gallon.

Subsidized vehicles are exempt from weight taxes as long as they are used for police service. The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers' labor contract provides subsidized vehicles with one gallon of gas for every 10 official duty miles driven, including travel to and from home.

It might interest you to learn what vehicles and items are prohibited for use by officers. They include:

» Convertibles, simulated convertible roofs and sunroofs, including roofs with any portion that's translucent or can be opened/removed.
» Models manufactured and/or marketed as sports cars.
» Models equipped with racing-associated and/or quasi racing-associated parts, including racelike body paint/trim. However, standard factory “;pin stripes”; are acceptable.
» Vehicles requiring a reconstruction permit.
» Models with spoilers (air deflectors), except those on the approved vehicle lists.
» Front end covers (”;car bras”;).
» Hood air/debris deflectors (bug shields) of any kind.
» Out-of-state and special license plates. (License plates from other Hawaii counties, veteran specialty plates and organizational plates with America United decals are permitted.)
» Four-cylinder engines.
» All makes and models not specifically listed on the approved vehicle lists.

Exceptions to the prohibited vehicles:

» Officers in the Police Activities League may use station wagons while assigned to that unit, while officers in the Canine and Mounted units may use certain nonconforming vehicles while assigned to those units, with prior approval.
» Vehicles with a hybrid engine authorized by the police chief and put on the approved vehicles list.