Oswego State students see University Police cars on campus daily, but few stop to wonder how unique they are.
Each car has prisoner cages, two-way radios, an emergency light-control box, a laptop with a special mounting unit, a barcode scanner, a thermal inkjet printer, a radar detector and a siren.
But even with all of the electrical equipment draining down energy in the cars, they still run on a battery, one you would find in any regular car. But because of the computer and electronics in the car the batteries must be replaced every year Assistant Police Chief John Rossi said.
U.P.’s cars are customized with a special police package so that they can be ready for almost any situation. The package includes heavy-duty parts, a stronger radiator coolers and shocks. Some cars wield heavy-duty bumpers in front, as well.
U.P. uses two Ford Crown Victorias, two Chevy Impalas, a Chevy Tahoe, a Dodge Durango, a Ford Explorer and a Chevy Cargo Van, Rossi said. Each vehicle is equipped with special parts and devices to meet police force needs.
The vehicles used are determined through state contracts and paid for by U.P. and the SUNY Budget. The patrol vehicles are part of a factory direct package. Rossi said he helps decide what would do the best job with the input from other officers.
He said the main reason for picking these police cars is how they handle during Oswego’s famously rough winters. The Chevy Impala has front-wheel drive, while the SUVs have four-wheel drive, which gives them more stability and control in the large amounts of snow.
But there’s a change under way. This year, Ford decided to discontinue the Crown Victoria after 14 years. Though Ford has offered the Taurus to replace the Crown Vic., Rossi said that U.P. chose to use the Chevy Impala instead, citing the cars superior handeling in winter weather.
“We went with the Impalas partially for the front-wheel drive in the winter, as the Fords had problems making it through on hard packed snowy roads,” Rossi said.
He added that the Impalas have a smaller engine and get better gas mileage, which fits into the college’s green initiative. They also cost about $2,000 less than the Crown Victorias did, according to Rossi.
Sgt. Richard Sherwood said that he has not been too impressed with the Impalas and prefers the Crown Victorias. Though, using the Impala is better than walking, he added.
No car is assigned to one particular officer. Each is assigned to one of three zones, and the officers take whichever is available for the zone in which they are traveling.
Rossi has seen multiple times when students have damaged the cars.
“The cars have had the hood kicked in, a brick was thrown at a windshield and pumpkins have been thrown on the hood and roofs,” Rossi said. “They have been involved in hit and runs, along with being urinated on, but have arrested the perpetrators several times.”
Oswego State has four mechanics on the campus to service patrol cars when damage does happen. They take care of all of repairs except for warranty work and specialized work, such as engine or transmission repairs. These repairs have to be taken care of off campus.
Recently there have been no issues, though, Sherwood said.