RNC street fleet

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Annual police budget allows for new and specialty vehicles

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) is responsible for a collection of 125 vehicles provincially — the majority with capabilities beyond anything you might buy off the lot.

In 2012, the force has picked up 20 new vehicles: four Chevrolet Impalas, eight Dodge Chargers, a pair of Dodge RAM pickups, a pair of GMC Sierras, a Mazda M3S, a Chevrolet Express van, a Chevrolet Tahoe and a GMC Yukon.

Overall, the force’s fleet is a far cry from where it was in the early 2000s, when then-police chief Richard Deering was speaking out about a need for more resources, according to current RNC chief of police Robert Johnston, who spoke with The Telegram Monday.

“In early 2000, when Chief Deering was appointed, there was a budget put in place for vehicles, to purchase new vehicles, and that’s a half million dollars a year.”

“So until his appointment, there was no real … the money really wasn’t identified,” Johnston said. “Now there’s secured funding in place.”

Following on that, from 2003 to 2007, the provincial government increased funding to the police forces in the province.

The Telegram recently obtained detailed information on vehicle acquisitions since 2007, by way of an access to information request. Today, the documents show, more than 100 of the 125 vehicles in the force’s fleet are 2007 model year or newer.

“Our vehicles now are road-worthy, they’re safe for our police officers and they’re safe for the public. But also, they allow us to respond quickly to calls for service,” Johnston said, noting renewal is key.

“They stand up longer, they hold up better and so they require less maintenance.”

Vehicles are supplied through provincial retailers Terra Nova Motors, Royal Garage, Hickman Motors and Avalon Ford.

The cost of the new fleet vehicles varies widely depending on their type and purpose, considering the associated equipment.

For example, at about $14,000 each in 2008, the RNC was able to acquire four, standard-model Ford Focus cars.

Move up to a six-cylinder, “police package” vehicle — such as the eight Dodge Chargers acquired this year — and the cost is about $34,000 apiece.

“Police package” vehicles are regularly developed by car manufacturers as same-name alternatives to their standard cars. So, while the patrol car parked down the block is labelled “Impala,” the police vehicle will likely be far more than the Impala off the lot.

“The electrical system in the vehicle is larger,” explains Johnston. “It has heavy-duty suspension. It has different braking component, cooling system. All those things are required for a police package, because of the demands that are placed upon the vehicle.”

Chargers and Impalas are the most common vehicles in the RNC fleet.

The next step up from the patrol cars would be 4x4 and specialty vehicles.

In 2007, the force added at least nine Ford Expeditions, each running $40,000 to $50,000. Purchases of utility vehicles have been relatively sporadic since, with an average of two per year.

The expense of these vehicles is notable. For example, at $61,000, the single 2012 GMC Yukon purchased this year will cost the government about as much as all four of the Ford Focus cars it picked up in 2008.

The most expensive RNC vehicle bought in the last five years is a GMC special-purpose truck, ordered through Hickman Motors in 2009, which cost $94,708.54.

Yet having committed funding for the RNC fleet is not the same as the force having a blank cheque.

There is a government-led vehicle acquisition committee in place to weigh requests and determine what vehicle types are put to tender, while a civilian fleet manager works with the RNC to monitor vehicle efficacy and deal with companies completing maintenance work.

“He helps us in determining what our needs are and what vehicles to order and tender for,” Johnston said. “Also, what vehicles are requiring the most amount of maintenance and what vehicles need to be taken out of the system because they’re costing us more to keep them on the road.”

Meanwhile, growth in the fleet is also about coverage for RNC jurisdiction outside of St. John’s. Of the 125 RNC road vehicles, 104 are based in the capital, 14 in Corner Brook and seven in Labrador West.

“I’ve been a police officer now for over 33 years. When I joined, we policed just the city of St. John’s and I remember, at that time, going back to 1979, we probably only had in our fleet in total about 25 vehicles. We had no other equipment outside that,” Johnston said.

“Sometimes we’ve had situations in the past where police officers had to double up in a vehicle because there was no vehicle available.”

That, it seems, is no longer the case.

“We’re able to provide a better service to the public by having newer vehicles, specialized vehicles. We’re able to respond more quickly and efficiently as a result of that,” the police chief said.


Organizations: Hickman Motors, Ford Focus

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Labrador West

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Recent comments

  • yo mama
    August 01, 2012 - 09:48

    Good on you RNC, it's just too bad you aren't allowed smash heads in when they need it, because I KNOW it goes through your minds. You can thank our lawmakers that never got whooped growing up, nerds and geeks that got awards just for participation.

  • wes
    July 31, 2012 - 19:37

    Keep up the good work RNC. You deserve the vehicles. Enjoy your coffee/doughnuts. etc. The people that are bitching are jealous. Probably most are offenders anyhow.

  • Jimmer
    July 31, 2012 - 18:09

    for our safety? ha...to keep us in line...

  • mike
    July 31, 2012 - 17:32

    I think the RNC are doing a good. BUT I think the chief should take the police out of these big WHITE police cars and put them in everyday vehicles.People do not break the law when they see the police in there big WHITE cars.

  • Sensitive Nerve
    July 31, 2012 - 15:40

    Ranger Ricky must have hit a nerve with the person who responded about others going to Tims are not identifiable because they don't have to wear a uniform. It would you you maybe a police officer otherwise why so sensitive? The bottom line is too many RNC frequent donut shops at the one time. Who is policing the streets? Don't you think the bad guys are not watching you too? Where are the supervisors or are they all there too? No problem with police having coffee but when you see three and four cars at the same place and you remember the last time you called and needed one you were told they were all busy, it makes you wonder. IT appears that they don't care about their image or their job and what people think. Why not give a break down on how many stop sign tickets were issued? Fail to signal, improper turns etc? No most rely on radar because it is difficult to challenge while other offense require police to take good notes and have to presnt evidence in court. Have a nice day!

  • MMSC
    July 31, 2012 - 13:17

    I think it is great to see that we have enough money in the province to provide the police force with the reliable equipment that they need. I live in a growing area, and the increased amount of patrolling police cars definitely makes for a safe community ! A police presence alone makes people drive and act in a safer and more respectable manner.

  • geez need four wheel drive for tims drive thru
    July 31, 2012 - 13:13

    in dept trans employees are driving 10 year old death traps pickups ; with over 385,000 kms on them; and these fellows are riding around in brand new 4 x 4; in the middle of city; eating donuts

  • Silly Newfies
    July 31, 2012 - 11:32

    Well how about they take those vehicles and give out some driving infractions. I'm not talking the generic speeding tickets which catch both good and bad drivers. I'm talking people rolling through stop signs, stopping to give someone 'a break', not holding their lane, etc. Newfoundland has the worst drivers in North America. I'm yet to see the RNC pull anyone over for anything useful. It's bad enough that I have to stay in NL, but I'm also forced to put up with horrible driving.

    • Conrad
      July 31, 2012 - 23:52

      Why do you have to stay? With your attitude I'm sure you wouldn't be missed if your leave. If the rest of North America is so great, why don't you move to Mexico. Good drivers there I'm sure.

    • robert churchill
      August 01, 2012 - 00:16

      Ref. "Silly Newfies" comment ... your comment makes no sense whatsoever ! If "good and bad" drivers are getting ... "generic" speeding tickets, then they are getting caught ... What is the difference in a driving infraction and (what the hell is) a "generic speeding ticket" ? Secondly , if you think Newfoundland has bad drivers , you obviously never lived anywhere near Toronto , or Vancouver ( worse again,,, ) and thirdly ... Why is it bad enough that you have to stay in NL, are you being held against your will ? and who is forcing you to put up with horrible driving ? The last time I checked ... Canada is a free country , ( for now!!! ) But if it is that bad for you, and you feel you are being forced ... then I am sure Newfies would be just as happy to see your cranky attitude go as you would be leaving ( don't let door hit ya on the way out ) ~ A Newfie who wishes he was home !!!

  • Ranger Ricky
    July 31, 2012 - 10:09

    No trouble to count the RNC vehicles just check out your local Tim,s or restaurant lol

    • Comment
      July 31, 2012 - 11:28

      Yes....because no other person in any other career choice drinks coffee or eats in a restaurant! Do you count the number of non-police cars in Tim's? You wouldn't be able to count them as there are so many. It is just that the police car is so identifiable that you can pick it out.

  • Paul Walsh
    July 31, 2012 - 07:34

    I think the RNC do a great job and I'm glad to see them get the equipment they need. I have nothing but respect for those willing to put themselves in harms way to ensure my safety.

  • Kent
    July 31, 2012 - 06:41

    It wouldn't hurt for a few of them to hoof it from time to time... There was a time when one would see police walking the beat in the downtown. They do it in other major cities... Oh wait this isn’t a major city. Sorry.

    • Bo
      July 31, 2012 - 07:08

      Ahh, I've seen them walking downtown lots of times..