NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The safety of New Haven’s police officers is under fire after a video surfaced of a cruiser going up in flames.
“This definitely drives home the point that we need to have newer vehicles,” said Interim Chief Anthony Campbell with New Haven Police Department.
The car ignited within minutes of the officer getting inside.
“He looked down and saw some flames coming up from under where your feet are, so he was able to grab his stuff and get out of the car and the car just ignited,” said Campbell.
The 13-year-old cruiser was used as an extra duty police car. Campbell said it drives home the fact the department needs new cars.
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“When a car breaks down it takes longer to get it repaired so you wind up with fewer cars you are able to give to officers to patrol the streets,” said Campbell.
In some cases the fleet is limited to two officers sharing a car. The old police cars need to go said Campbell.
“The electrical systems are having issues, the steering systems were having issues and now you start dealing with officer safety and the safety of the public,” said Campbell.
Most of the older police cars are over 14 years old and need to be repaired daily. In the past the police department had 10 mechanics now it’s down to four.
“Not only are you getting less money for your fleet you also have fewer people who can manage your fleet,” said Campbell.
In the fall, the department received 16 new Dodge Chargers for the patrol fleet. New vehicles are just the tip of the iceberg. Campbell said every officer needs to be outfitted with a body camera.
“We believe the body cameras add a great deal of transparency, create a level playing field,” said Campbell.
The department will need 452 body cameras and that’s not all. Most officers don’t have department-issued cell phones and have to use their own. Campbell said that’s going to change.
“So they don’t have to use their own phone. Their own minutes. In addition we are going to put programs on there that will help the officers do their job better,” said Campbell.
It doesn’t stop there. The department needs thousands of dollars in new equipment from bulletproof vests to swat gear.
“We need to order gear. We need to make sure officers have masks, that they have shields that they are able to deal with any situation that develops,” said Campbell.
The cost of the new fleet, equipment and phones will cost anywhere from $1.5 to 2 million, but Campbell said it’s worth it.
“It is money well spent because it adds to public safety. It adds to officer safety because it only take one event to have huge liability because you didn’t have the equipment you needed to keep the public safe or to keep that officer safe,” said Campbell.