A less flashy approach to the police pull-over?

There’s a new safety feature on four new police cars the Ridgefield Police Department is seeking in the upcoming budget.

“The flashing patterns for overhead lights, they can be kind of overwhelming for a passing motorist,” Police Chief Jeff Kreitz said. “The newer lights, when you go into park they go into more of a less-flashing mode — rather than all the lights lit up, it’ll limit the amount of lights flashing, which will increase safety for passing motorists.

“We don’t want to blind the passing motorists,” he added. ”It’s the tendency of people to fixate on these lights.

“It automatically switched to that when it goes into park,” he said, “and you can configure it so when the door opens and the officer steps out, that corner light will disengage and turn off, so it doesn’t blind the officer.

“It protects their vision, so they can clearly see what’s going on.”

The chief is enthusiastic.

“It’s not only safer for the officer,” he said, “but the motoring public, too.”

The four new police cars — replacement cars, really — are requested as a $121,000 line in the $5.7 million 2020-21 police department budget proposed by Chief Kreitz and approved by the Police Commission at its December meeting.

The $5,743,459 budget request — a proposed 3% spending increase — will go to the Board of Selectmen. It will then go as part of the selectmen’s town budget to the Board of Finance and, after that, to town voters in the May budget referendum.

The four cars would be one new black and white cruiser, one new unmarked car and replacements for two of the department’s leased vehicles (The department leases four cars,— two detective bureau cars, a car for the chief and a car for the second-in-command, Major Stephen Brown.

The move to the new flashing lights won’t be done to the entire fleet of some 24 vehicles, at least not all at once.

“It’s going to be changed over as cars are replaced,” Krietz said.

New philosophy

The department is taking a new approach on vehicle replacements, he added.

“We’re looking at replacing the cars on an as-need basis. We used to replace them every three years, automatically,” Kreitz said. “I think we can get a little bit more out of them. We’re going to look at the engine hours, the overall condition of the vehicles, and mileage.”

Someone replacing a personal car would likely look at mileage as a leading factor, but for the police department the “engine hours” category is more significant because police cars spend an unusually high amount of time idling, Kreitz said.

The Police Department vehicle fleet consists of: 14 black and white patrol cars, including school resource officer cars, the canine officer’s vehicle, two supervisor vehicles; a uniform division unmarked car, which is also the department’s training car; two detective vehicles; the chief’s vehicle; the major’s vehicle; a pick-up truck that was donated; and an incident command vehicle that is recycled fire department ambulance that carries all the equipment used investigating serious accidents. The department has one Humvee — it used to have two, but has gotten rid of one and will soon get rid of the second. They Humvees are no longer needed because their main function — carrying the large amount of cones, barricades, detour signs and other equipment used in large-scale road closures — is now performed by the pick-up truck that was donated.