Van added to Shaler police fleet
The Shaler Township Police Department has added the largest vehicle to date to its fleet in an effort to increase officer and passenger safety.
The new Ford 1-ton cargo van was on the road for the first time this month and provides the police officers with partitions to establish a driver area, an equipment compartment and a criminal-transportation area in the rear of the vehicle.
The amount of room in the back of a patrol vehicle is limited because the short distance between the seats is even smaller once the prisoner cage is installed to protect the police officer. Shaler Police Chief Bryan Kelly said it is close to impossible to safely get an uncooperative passenger into the back seat.
“We've had difficulty with the size of the passenger's compartment of the patrol vehicle and accommodating the police officer and safety and prisoners and safety,” Kelly said. “It's been a delicate balance.”
Because of the safety issue, the department purchased the vehicle under this year's budget.
The van was a large financial commitment by the department — totaling about $50,000 for the purchase of the van and the graphics, lighting and interior fixtures, but, Kelly said, the investment was worth it.
“We've had a couple departments who requested we use it (to help transport passengers),” he said.
The van also enables police officers to transport all of their road tools in one location, such as a ballistics shield, road flairs, small ladder and even a pop-up tent to protect evidence at a scene.
This is the first time the Shaler department has had a van with a confinement area in its fleet. Previously, the department had a van it used for its Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, program.
“I think it will work out well,” Kelly said.
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.