Residents and visitors in Haddonfield might want to take extra care to be on their best behavior. If not, they might be on the wrong end of a surprise visit from the police department’s new hybrid Ford SUV interceptor.
“It’s definitely more covert. So when you’re on routine duty or traffic jobs or just trying to sneak up on people, it’s definitely going to be more of a surprise,” said Police Chief Jason Cutler in a Dec. 8 conversation.
Haddonfield police made the announcement on the department Facebook page during the first week of December, and the interceptor has been part of the fleet since then. The grey, four-door vehicle looks like a typical car you’d take on a winter holiday to a snowy locale. But as Cutler revealed, it took about two months to be properly outfitted as a police vehicle due to its hybrid status.
“When you turn the key to start it, you can’t tell right away,” he explained. “It’s gonna take a while for our guys to get used to it. A little light comes on is the only way you know the car’s operational.”
The genesis of the idea came a little more than two years ago, when Commissioner Jeffrey Kasko hosted a demo of various hybrid and electric vehicles in the back parking lot of borough hall, adjacent to police headquarters.
“That got the ball rolling, pretty much,” Cutler acknowledged.
Since then, Cutler, along with Commissioner Colleen Bianco Bezich, Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough, the mayor and other commissioners have researched ways to reduce the police department’s carbon footprint. An electric golf cart for parking enforcement was the first addition, in 2019.
“We have the second-most vehicles of any department in town, other than public works, so we’ve been working on finding out how to be more efficient and environmentally friendly,” Cutler noted.
As to why the department opted for an SUV rather than a sedan, Cutler said that Ford recently discontinued its hybrid sedan model, so the larger-body vehicle was the only remaining option. There’s also the reliability and confidence of sticking with the same model.
“Most of our fleet has been Fords throughout the years, at least since I started, and that’s 25 years. They make a really good police car,” Cutler added.
While he didn’t have specifics on the amount of gas and money saved by including a hybrid, Cutler was confident its addition will be a boon to the bottom line on gas consumption and maintenance.
“We typically use patrol cars for a while,” he said. “Our oldest right now is a 2013 Ford, and here, they last a little bit longer than usual. A typical police car lasts about four to five years, but we go easier on them. If we continue with this one being around six to eight years, it’s a significant savings all around.”
Though tempting as the chief of police, Cutler admitted he’s not the one who got first crack at taking an interceptor ride.
“We typically have the new vehicles go to the patrolmen; it’s the largest division in the department,” he mused. “These cars are basically their offices, and after 30 years as an officer, I’m done with the shiny new toys.”
Cutler revealed the department will continue to confer with borough governance about eventually adding more hybrid vehicles, as well as other practical ways to lessen emissions.
“We started with the cart. And this is the natural progression,” he continued. “It might be the only one in Camden County, or at least in the area as far as I know. But we’re committed to moving forward.”