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New wheels: City police officers get new SUVs

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    Officer Pat Welch has a big smile as she gets into her new vehicle. LYNN HOBBS/Staff
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Officer Pat Welch has a big smile as she gets into her new vehicle. LYNN HOBBS/Staff

Thanks to the voters and shoppers in the city of Eatonton, the city’s police officers now have some new vehicles – the first they’ve had in more than 15 years, according to Police Chief Kent Lawrence.

Six 2020-21 Ford Explorers/ Police Interceptors were delivered to Eatonton Police Department Tuesday, Oct. 6, and four more are on the way, Lawrence said.

The SUV’s are funded by SPLOST 9 (Special Purpose Local Option 1-cent Sales Tax), which was previously approved by Eatonton voters. Before it was presented to voters, Eatonton City Council members approved placing the new SUVs on the list of how the SPLOST funds would b spent.

“I am thankful to Councilman James Gorley and Eatonton City Council, and to the voters for approving this, and for believing in continuing to move the police department forward so we can keep the city safe,” Lawrence said.

When the new SUVs were displayed at the Eatonton City Council meeting Oct. 6, expressions of gratitude flowed freely.

Mayor John Reid, Councilman Gorley, who is chairman of the Public Safety Committee, and City Administrator Gary Sanders, each verbally thanked the voters for approving the continuance of the penny sales tax.

Gorley noted that even though the purchases seemed like a large expense in the city budget, the constant maintenance on the older model Crown Victorias in the fleet was also quite expensive, “so this will be a big help because we won’t have to keep buying new parts and paying for repairs,” he said.

The new police interceptors are the first-ever pursuit-rated hybrid police SUV, according to the Ford website. It is designed to provide improved power and performance along with reduced CO2 emissions. Regarding its key safety features, the Ford Police Interceptor Utility Vehicle has been engineered to meet the 75-mph rear-impact crash test, and features side protection and cabin enhancement.

The 10 vehicles are not enough for every officer on the force to have one, but it is a big help, Lawrence noted. When various police officers were asked their thoughts, gratitude to city council and the voters was expressed, and a few of them said they were so pleased that they were speechless, admitting, “I never thought I’d see this day.”