Berea, Kentucky Police Chief Eric Scott made the decision to buy Tesla police cruisers after watching all the electric vehicle commercials during the 2021 Super Bowl. he future was getting electric and he wanted to be ready. The police department purchased four 2021 Tesla Model 3s, three of which are used as cruisers.
Now that it’s been a year, he has some real results to show: things like how officers have embraced the new technology, what the community has thought of these new vehicles, and whether these electric vehicles were financially profitable.
For the officers, the transition was relatively easy. For these early cars, he chose officers who had a deep understanding of technology. They learned ways to keep vehicles loaded on shifts of varying lengths. The city of Berea worked with Evolve KY, Kentucky’s nonprofit electric vehicle group, to install six Level 2 chargers for police-only use at the police station, and also placed several in the community (17 chargers in total in Berea). Officers learned to make sure they had enough load to start and finish their shifts. This is similar to the amount of gasoline that must be in gas-powered vehicles at the start and end of the day. If this meant the officers had to take the cars home to charge for them, an allowance would be paid to the officer for this. But that was rarely the case.
“It went well, from our officers’ perspective, they loved it,” Police Chief Scott said of the officers assigned to the Teslas. “It was cool, unique, they love gadgets and in our world technology has taken over.”
The Tesla even came in handy while on patrol for a recent drug bust where they didn’t even hear the vehicle stop.
He notes that current technology — things like tasers, some body wraps, and high-tech body cameras — allows them to use less force.
The big challenge came with the community. The police chief notes that there was a perception that the vehicles were luxury cars. Many people did not realize that the price of the Tesla Model 3 was comparable to the cost of the vehicles they bought before. And, unfortunately, it was made political, so much of the conservative Republican base was skeptical at first.
Perhaps the biggest benefit was the money saved by going electric. For the year, they saved about $24,000 in fuel and maintenance by running the three electric police cars.
“The savings have been greater than we anticipated,” said Police Chief Scott. “It was because of our brakes. We have high performance brakes on our police vehicles. Over the course of a year, we’ll put $2,000 worth of brakes on a vehicle. Tesla’s regenerative braking completely dissolved this cost to us and it is something we did not expect.
Looking to the future, they hope to get other city departments to buy electric vehicles for their fleets. And now they have specific metrics they can point to. Scott pointed to the Super Bowl commercials in this year’s Super Bowl as a starting point for talking to other Berea department heads about going electric.
And that’s been great for community outreach. When the Berea Police Department receives requests to display their Tesla Model 3s, different communities in Kentucky have been very interested and are drawn to the flashing lights and large graphics on the vehicle. At a community event in London, Ky. last year, representatives from the London Police Department gathered around the police cruiser and asked the officer questions about their use of the vehicle and on their experience.
The department is also looking for low-tech solutions to better serve its community. One of the newest members of the department is K9 Buddy. Buddy is a Golden Doodle and came to the department as a puppy. Scott remembered going to an anti-abortion protest on a local college campus and shouting at protesters on both sides. He saw a student who had a service dog and the dog escaped and two ladies from opposite sides of the protest helped retrieve the dog.
“We’ve been there for seven hours trying to diffuse this crowd and this dog came in between two howling crowds and completely stole the show,” Scott said. “For 12 minutes, everyone stopped.”
Police Chief Scott takes a holistic approach to policing and tries to change the perception of community policing and look to the future. Going electric is one way to achieve their goals and save a lot of money in the process.
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