GULFPORT — "The city is committed to setting an example of being environmentally responsible," said police Chief Robert Vincent, who thought it would be a good idea to add a green car to his fleet.
The Gulfport City Council has authorized City Manager James O'Reilly to use contraband forfeiture trust funds and federal asset sharing money for the purchase of a hybrid vehicle for the Gulfport Police Department.
The vehicle is a midsize, four-door Ford Fusion that gets 41 miles per gallon. It will be a blue, marked vehicle complete with a cage and it will do everything other police cars would do except get involved with emergency responses and pursuits, as hybrids are not specifically built for the demands of all types of police work.
Because it cannot be used for patrol, officials decided that it would be most beneficial, and perhaps serve as a good influence to students, if it's used at the schools. "If all goes well," Vincent said, "you can expect to see the Fusion hybrid police car at Boca Ciega High School around the beginning of the year."
It will be primarily used by school resource officers for transporting students to treatment facilities if needed, for officers going to intelligence meetings or meetings with other resource officers (which happens a couple of times per month all over Pinellas County), for training classes and for sporting events at different schools.
The hybrid won't replace any of the vehicles currently used by the department. The maintenance interval on the other cars in the fleet may be extended with the addition of this car, but it will not increase maintenance for the fleet.
Vincent said the department cannot use contraband forfeiture funds to buy something that is already on its budget, but it can use them on something that will supplement operations.
Gulfport police received a check for $28,000 for last year's participation with the Pinellas County Narcotics Task Force, which is almost what they're spending on this car. The Fusion will be purchased locally for $27,000, including lights and graphics.
The hybrid car addition is part of the efforts to achieve the designation of "green city" by the Florida Green Building Coalition. Some city police departments use low-speed electric vehicles, but Gulfport needed a real car for this purposed use. "We use bicycles, but not as much as I'd like to," Vincent admitted. "That's mainly because of the cut in personnel we've had over the years."
Gulfport will also get a new officer soon, a community resource officer who will focus on the 49th Street redevelopment area. That will make 30 officers total.