Bella Vista ve­hi­cles com­ing to­gether

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - KEITH BRYANT

BELLA VISTA — Sur­rounded by the ca­coph­ony of in­dus­trial fans, air com­pres­sors and the tools they power, a new, bright white car stands out among the more typ­i­cal rides lifted through­out the re­pair shop.

With each day, the mostly-plain look­ing Dodge Charger looks more like a pa­trol car un­til it’s sent back to Bella Vista’s Po­lice Depart­ment, in need of noth­ing but strip­ing.

Capt. Tim Cook said of the six squad cars the City Coun­cil ap­proved buy­ing this year, two are com­plete and two are being built. The re­main­ing two will be put to­gether later this year.

They go to Tac­ti­cal Auto Out­fit­ters in Ben­tonville, he said, for equip­ment in­stal­la­tion, be­fore mov­ing on to strip­ing. The depart­ment spends roughly $7,500 out­fit­ting each car, he said, in ad­di­tion to its roughly $23,000 base price.

When and where pos­si­ble, he said, the depart­ment will re­use equip­ment, in­clud­ing ra­dios and cam­eras, to keep costs as low as pos­si­ble, though a pa­trol car for a new of­fi­cer po­si­tion will need a full set of new equip­ment.

Any­thing that will fit with the new ve­hi­cle and can be used safely, he said, is worth reusing.

“We have to be mind­ful of the tax­pay­ers’ money,” Cook said. “We want to be good stew­ards of the peo­ple’s money.”

One new ad­di­tion to this batch of pa­trol cars, he said, is bars on the rear win­dows. He said they pro­vide rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive in­sur­ance against peo­ple kick­ing out back win­dows, which can be ex­pen­sive to re­place.

In ad­di­tion to reusing equip­ment, he said, the depart­ment saves original equip­ment, such as back seats, that can be put back into the ve­hi­cle once it is re­tired and sold.

Cur­ran Hicks at Tac­ti­cal Auto Out­fit­ters in­stalled light­ing and other elec­tron­ics on Bella Vista’s new pa­trol car, a pur­suit pack­age Charger. The build, he said, takes about one week for a Charger, though SUVs, par­tic­u­larly those out­fit­ted for po­lice dogs, can be big­ger jobs that take closer to a week and a half.

The cars can be en­joy­able to work with, he said, though the most fun cars to work with are un­der­cover cars. They need the same equip­ment, he said, but also need to look nor­mal in­side and out.

“They’re just kind of a fun chal­lenge,” he said. “It’s just kind of fun to find new ways to hide things.”

The pur­suit pack­age, he said, features a col­umn shifter to make space on the car’s floor and it comes with wiring in place, so in­stalling lights in the bumpers and on the roof is more straight­for­ward.

A lot of work has to be done on the in­te­rior as well, he said. The pa­trol car needs wiring on the in­side — of­ten run un­der plas­tic along the pillars to pre­vent tam­per­ing — as well as a ra­dio unit and a cam­era sys­tem and a par­ti­tion, to name a few things.

“Ba­si­cally, to get all the equip­ment put in the car,” he said, “I’ve got to take all the in­te­rior out … Some­times it takes a lit­tle bit of sweet talk to get it back in.”

The most ob­nox­ious part of the job, he said, is re­mov­ing and re­plac­ing the head­liner. It needs to come out, he said, so he can drill holes and bolt in the light bar, as well as an an­tenna. But once the head­liner is out, he said, it’s re­luc­tant to line up with its mount­ing clips again.

An an­tenna, he said, is im­por­tant be­cause it lets the squad car au­to­mat­i­cally upload its cam­era data at the po­lice sta­tion. The cam­era sys­tem is patched into the car’s other sys­tems, he said, al­low­ing it to record data as well as video and au­dio.

“The cam­era knows when you step on the brake… when you turn the siren on, when your lights are on,” Hicks said.

In ad­di­tion to set­ting up squad cars, he said, the shop of­ten han­dles elec­tri­cal is­sues on them. Be­tween the num­ber of elec­tronic sys­tems on the cars and near-con­stant use, he said, it’s not un­com­mon for is­sues to crop up.

One pa­trol car came into the shop, he said, with a mis­be­hav­ing mi­cro­phone. When the mi­cro­phone was pick­ing up au­dio, he said, the cam­era’s footage would be­come dis­torted, and at one point the car’s lights came on of their own ac­cord.

The problem, he said, was a loose ground wire.

“There’s al­ways weird prob­lems,” he said. Keith Bryant may be reached by email at kbryant@nwadg.com.

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