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Forcing cops, not firefighters to buy electric cars is ‘double-standard’

Spokane City Councilor Jonathan Bingle questioned why most of his peers were pushing for electric police vehicles but had readily agreed to purchase fossil fuel-powered trucks for the fire department.

“I don’t remember us once asking a question of ‘Is there a hybrid pumper truck? Is there a fully electric pumper truck?’” Bingle said. “And spoiler alert: They exist.”

He said it was unfair to use a “double standard” in the way  one department was treated over another.

On Monday, the council voted to use more than $2.3 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to purchase up to 35 new police vehicles, including eight electric models.

The elected body also approved the expenditure of more than $3.7 million in ARP funds for four pumper trucks. The funding package also included $90,000 to purchase and install electric charging stations, and $100,000 for a study on other police departments that use electric vehicle, as well as recommendations to increase operational efficiency.

All seven councilors supported the multi-million expenditure from the $81 million in federal funds awarded the city last year. However, an amendment to the resolution authorizing the expenditure was shot down 5-2.

Councilor Michael Cathcart proposed the amendment. He wanted to provide the police department with at least 54 of the 64 vehicles it had requested to replace an aging fleet.

Under the police department’s 10-year plan, the 64 vehicles would have cycled in for 47 vehicles with more than 80,000 miles, including 29 with more than 100,000 miles, according to a report earlier this month by Major Michael McNab.

He said the older vehicles would then get reassigned to lower levels of use within the fleet until they were not longer functional.

“We need more than 200 vehicles replaced in our fleet,” said Cathcart at the March 28 meeting. “It’s concerning to me that if we don’t find a way to make this investment right now; that not only are we going to continue to be years behind where we should be, which we are now, but we’re just going to continue to kick that can down the road.”

Mayor Nadine Woodward also supported the police department’s ask of 64 vehicles, according to a statement from City Administrator Johnnie Perkins.

“To me, it seems frustrating that we’ve asked our police department to go through a years-long process to tell us the equipment they need, the tools to be most effective, and we continue to run them through the ringer as if they haven’t done a good enough job of pursuing electric vehicles or alternative vehicles to meet the demands of the community and the goals of this state and city,” said Bingle.

The police department stated a preference for the Ford Police Interceptor Utility SUV. The council approved the purchase of 25 of these vehicles, plus two Chevrolet diesel Tahoe trucks in addition to the eight electric vehicles.

The resolution specified five Ford Mustang Mach-Es and three Ford Lightning trucks, though it was amended to include language to allow police to buy vehicles equivalent to those options.

Council President Breean Beggs calculated the overall cost of granting Cathcart’s amendment. Using the cost of $65,000 to fully stock and commission a police vehicle, as estimated by Fleet Services, the expenditure by would have jumped to $4.2 million.

Cathcart and Bingle supported the additional expenditure of ARP funds.

Beggs and other councilors said there was only so much funding to go around and they had to consider other community needs as well.

“In this economic climate, we aren’t going to get everything we want,” said Councilor Lori Kinnear.

Beggs said when the police study results were known in six months, the issue could be revisited and the city could potentially make additional vehicle purchases.

“We are setting ourselves up to be more informed and giving them (police department) the resources so they can be more effective in making their asks going forward,” he said.

He was joined by Kinnear, Betsy Wilkerson, Karen Stratton and Zack Zappone in the belief that the purchase agreement on the table was an acceptable compromise with city administration.

“There isn’t one member of the council that doesn’t support the police 100%,” said Stratton.

The council majority have signed on to Gov. Jay Inslee’s call to ban most non-electric vehicles by 2030.

Toward that end, the city purchased two Tesla Model-Y cars last year for police use, but they were determined by officers to be too cramped with insufficient power. The vehicles also could not be programmed for stealth operation, according to Fleet Services Director Rick Giddings.

Avista also told the city there is not enough electrical capacity where the cars would be stationed to support Level 2 and 3 charging stations.

Beggs said that Monday’s decision by the city to invest in the infrastructure for electric vehicles should eliminate concerns about capacity.

This article was originally posted on Forcing cops, not firefighters to buy electric cars is ‘double-standard’

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