In recent weeks, the Marlborough Town Board and Police Chief Gerald Cocozza have been discussing the purchase of a new police car. Last week, after Councilman Allan Koenig touched upon the importance of public safety, the board gave Cocozza permission to begin looking into the availability and delivery time for a new vehicle.
In a subsequent interview, Cocozza said ideally his department needs 9 vehicles to cover all of the shifts, which leaves one in reserve at the station ready for use, but presently he has 6 patrol cars and a seventh that is his vehicle. The deficit occurred because one police car was recently totaled in an accident and another suffered a motor failure.
“It had 125,000 miles on it and it overheated and it took out the motor,” he said.
Cocozza said there is an eighthvehicle that is the DARE car but it is not used on patrol.
Cocozza said the cost of a police car is about $26,000 and another $8,000 is needed to outfit it with a computer, extra lights and a metal cage to separate the front seat from the back. He said he likes Dodge Chargers and has been buying them since 2006.
Cocozza said there can be a substantial lag time between when he orders a vehicle to when it arrives at his station. It then takes additional time to properly outfit it. He recalled that the last time he ordered a Durango it took about 4 months for it to come in.
“They had to build it, they just don’t keep them in stock,” he explained, pointing out that the vehicles he orders must be certified police cars. “The brakes are bigger, it’s vented differently, the electronics are set up different, there’s heavy-duty cooling in it, there are rear end differential coolers, there are oil coolers that you wouldn’t see in a civilian vehicle.” He said he buys all-wheel drive vehicles, “which is what we like.”
Cocozza is concerned that if a significant incident happens in town he may be left short of vehicles. He recalled that the Town Board initially wanted to hold off on a new purchase and have him outfit his own Chief of Police car as a patrol car and “make-due” until the coming fall budget season.
Cocozza said currently his vehicles are used for patrol and absent any momentous event, he has enough cars to put his officers out on the street. But when school opens in September, he has 3 SRO cars at the schools and 2 on patrol for the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift.
“That’s no grant cars, no DWI cars, no evidence running, no one going to court,” he said. “You should have at least 3, that’s why I say 8 cars minimum. So we’re going to pull the DARE car from the officer and we’ll put that in so the SRO officer can drive that to the school, which will give us an extra car to stay here at the station to run evidence, to go to court and do all the things I just mentioned.”
Cocozza said because of the timing, which puts him in the middle of model years, he is unsure what the dealer will have available. He said the town used to have a 2 and 1 replacement policy.
“That means one year we would budget for two cars and then the following year we would budget for one car and the following year for two cars. That replacement worked very well,” he said. “Following that replacement we reduced our breakdowns tremendously; cars lasted longer and they weren’t used as much and it allowed us to have a larger fleet.” He said in the last few years the Town Board moved to one vehicle per year for budgetary reasons. Although he has had an 8 car fleet, the rotation puts replacement once every 8 years.
“That’s a long time for a police car to be in service. As we start breaking down cars now, that same amount of miles gets driven every month whether it’s put on 8 cars or 5 cars; we’re still driving roughly 10,000 patrol miles a month,” he said.
Cocozza said once a new car arrives, his chief’s car is supposed to be returned to him, as per his contract. There is also an outstanding $50,000 member item grant earmarked for a police vehicle that was obtained by now retired NYS Sen. William Larkin that the town is waiting to receive.