Three Arizona police officers have died because of apparent fuel tank problems in the Ford Crown Victorias, favored as patrol vehicles. It is believed the construction and placement of the fuel tank may cause the tendency toward explosions with rear-end collisions.
The Payson Police Department has had its own problems with Ford vehicles for awhile now. There have not been any serious problems, but the department's fleet manager, Officer Bob Steel, does not like the make.
There have been no new Ford vehicles purchased by the PPD since 1999, but the fleet still has at least 13 Crown Victorias in its inventory.
"It's more than I care to have," Steel said. He said the department has kept a file for about two years on problems other departments have had with their Crown Victorias and other Ford products.
"We are looking at a fuel cell or bladder type tank," Steel said about the solutions the department is considering. "We're definitely concerned, but we want it to be a proper fix."
Although there have been discussions and meetings about the fuel tank problem for the last couple of years, "Ford hasn't addressed it, except for suggesting a quick fix with some bolt modifications," Steel said.
He said he prefers General Motors vehicles and they have been looking at bringing Impalas and two-wheel drive Tahoes into the fleet.
"They're safer, easier to get in and out of, and we can carry our gear in them," Steel said.
The Gila County Sheriff's Office in Payson has five Crown Victorias in its fleet, Undersheriff Tom Melcher said. All have gone through the Ford-recommended fix for the fuel tank problem, getting bolts modified, he said.
Two have so many miles on them, they are considered spares and are not on the road regularly. One is used by a department sergeant, another is operated by one of the GCSO detectives, the third is used by the administrative manager.
"I'd be happier if we didn't have any Crown Vics on the street. I have some trepidation about them," Melcher said.
If the Gila County budget had allowed it, the undersheriff said he would have replaced at least two of them last year because they have too many miles on them, but it was not possible.