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Police Nurse Battered Fleet As Voters Refuse to Buy New

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Martha's Vineyard Times 11-06-03

Police Nurse Battered Fleet As Voters Refuse to Buy New

By Rhiannon Varmette

Officer Frank Williams, a Tisbury officer, stands beside a damaged cruiser.
A Chevy Tahoe sits in the garage, unusable after an accident last week. Both Crown Victoria cruisers run, but one needs front-end repairs and the other has a rear window made of plastic and duct tape. An unruly passenger kicked out the window glass weeks ago.

This is the Tisbury police department's fleet of patrol cars, dangerously under-equipped to respond to calls for service and protection from townspeople, according to Chief Ted Saulnier.

The 11-officer Tisbury department received 4,500 calls for service last year. There have been more than 4,000 so far this year.

"We're on par with towns on the Island like Edgartown and Oak Bluffs…, but we have less than half the equipment," Chief Saulnier said this week.

The Oak Bluffs police department, with 14 police officers, has six vehicles, all leased. Edgartown has a total of eight vehicles, including an ATV and a pick-up truck. According to Edgartown Chief Paul Condlin, the county seat's police department receives about 4,000 calls for service each year and has 15 full-time police officers.

West Tisbury's police department has five vehicles, and West Tisbury police Chief Beth Toomey says her department needs more, or at least newer, cars to replace their 1996 sedans. A proposal for replacement cars was rejected at their town meeting last spring.

"I get the impression that people think we can just get by," Chief Toomey said. "What they don't understand is that we're the primary emergency vehicles on the Island."

Chief Saulnier said that having only three cars is also dangerous, because often one car is in need of repairs, leaving the department with only two vehicles. And, he pointed out, in any emergency requiring CPR, two single-officer cars are sent.

He said that the department has received several calls it could not respond to quickly, though none have been real emergencies.

The chief campaigned for two new police cars, with a combined price tag of $58,000, at the Tisbury town meeting in April, but the proposal was rejected, 67-93.

"I think the money is there. I don't think the desire was there on the part of the citizens who attended the town meeting… They're uninformed of the condition of our fleet, if you can call three cars a fleet," he said.

Chiefs Saulnier and Toomey point out that by delaying the purchase of new police cars in hopes of saving money, town voters may open themselves to more costs in the long run because older cars need frequent repair, especially when there are too few of them and they are in constant use.

A new, fully-equipped police cruiser costs approximately $28,000, Chief Saulnier said. Although citizens in Tisbury have suggested that the police department purchase smaller, or even electric, vehicles, the chief said the full-sized cars are needed.

Police cruisers are built to handle more damage than most regular automobiles and come with thousands of dollars worth of electronic equipment, such as computers, radios, and lights. Even in full-sized cruisers, space is limited because the necessary emergency equipment nearly fills the trunk and a barrier between the front and back seats is required by law.

Chief Saulnier will ask again next spring at town meeting for a fleet upgrade. Until then, he aims to educate Tisbury voters to the dangers delaying vehicle purchases.

"Public safety is at risk every day that the cars are not in full working order… We may not be able to get somewhere we need to be," he said.
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I feel bad for the cops that have to work in Tisbury, another reason why to stay away form small towns. I remember when I worked in Tisbury the care were new and pretty nice, lol too bad they have the same ones that are not so nice. And I worked there in 96 I can't believe they have the same cars.
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