AKRON, Ohio - Of the 311 vehicles in the Akron Police Department's Fleet, 154 of them, nearly half, have 100-thousand miles or more, well past the mileage where they would ideally be replaced.
Provisional Chief Kenneth Ball says replacing the aging vehicles in the fleet has been a priority, but budget challenges in recent years have kept many of the old cars and transport vehicles on the road, the city choosing instead to maintain them rather than buy new ones.
On Tuesday, an officer became ill while on patrol. Chief Ball says he stopped at a fire station where both he and his patrol car were checked and elevated levels of carbon monoxide were detected.
The officer, who was driving one of the department's aging Crown Victorias, was taken to a local hospital and will be OK, but the incident has drawn attention to the need to update the fleet
"I mean, that is very disturbing to hear that that's what our officer was exposed to. It's our desire and our sincere work every single day to create a work environment for our officers that is safe and conducive to the important work that they do," said Ball on Wednesday.
Union President Frank Williams says members of the safety committee for FOP Lodge 7 in Akron have frequently discussed the need to do something about the department's cars.
"We are always getting concerns from the members that hey, our cruisers are old. They are beat down, they have holes in the floorboard, we have miscellaneous problems. So yes, we get them through our safety committee and what I try to do is try to meet with the chief of police and we try to get these concerns fixed," said Williams.
"I mean it's old equipment and I understand that. But to actually, you know, potentially an officer could have gotten killed in these old cruisers. I mean yeah, that surprised me, to that magnitude when you think in terms that somebody could have gotten killed," he added
Some new patrol cars and SUVs have been added to the fleet over the past two years, but Ball says some of the vehicles that were bought in 2017 are not yet on the road.
"They are not yet in service. When we get those vehicles in we have to outfit them. We have to put the decals on and those other things and we are in the middle of that process now," said Ball.
The incident involving the officer happened on the same day that Akron voters overwhelmingly approved Issue 4, which will inject about $16-million into the budget for emergency services, including the police department, to buy new equipment.
Ball says the money will help expedite the process of replacing the cars for the police department.
In the meantime, the car that made the officer ill on Tuesday was being examined to determine what caused the problem and try to prevent it from happening again.