QUESTION: Does the local sheriff’s office have more vehicles in its motor fleet than deputies who actually use them?
ANSWER: With a motor fleet that, on paper at least, numbers more than 220 vehicles, the office of Alamance County’s sheriff may seem to have a lot of excess horsepower for its force of roughly 150 deputies.
But the sheriff’s apparent oversupply of vehicles all but vanishes when the rubber actually meets the road.
According to David Sykes, a major with the sheriff’s office, the extent of the sheriff’s rolling stock is, in part, a reflection of the agency’s wide-ranging responsibilities, which include auxiliary functions such as detention that often have a transportation component. The sheriff office also has a number of specialty vehicles, including several utility trailers, which appear in the agency’s vehicle inventory even if they aren’t much use to someone who needs to get from Point A to Point B.
Major David Sykes, Alamance County Sheriff’s OfficeSykes acknowledged that, as a matter of course, the sheriff’s office issues a personal vehicle to each of the 150 or so sworn deputies who serve in its ranks. He noted that about a third of these vehicles are assigned to deputies in the sheriff’s patrol unit, while others are reserved for criminal investigators, school resource officers, members of the sheriff’s command staff, and others who need a reliable set of wheels. Sykes conceded that personal cars are even allotted to some bailiffs on the sheriff’s payroll who have additional duties outside the courtroom.
Sykes went on to observe that the sheriff’s patrol unit accounts for 52 of the agency’s individually-assigned cars as well as another six vehicles that are theoretically available as spares.
“You can’t run a 52-man patrol unit without having some spares,” the major declared.
Sykes added that roughly 20 vehicles are individually assigned to the agency’s administrators – many of whom, he noted, are themselves sworn deputies. He attributed another 11 cars to court personnel such as bailiffs and 15 or so to staff members in the sheriff’s detention division whose duties demand some degree of mobility.
“Anybody in the detention division that’s on call or whose work takes them away [from the jail] has an assigned car,” he explained.
Sykes said that a considerable number of the agency’s remaining vehicles are assigned to personnel involved in criminal investigations. He recalled that some 22 vehicles are detailed just for narcotics investigations, while another 21 cars in the agency’s fleet are used for various undercover operations.
In addition to its complement of police-issue vehicles, the sheriff’s office has a number of other conveyances that serve a variety of specialized purposes. These auxiliary vehicles include an armored Ford Bearcat that’s used by the special response teams, two Dodge Sprinter vans that can ferry tactical teams into the field, and another dozen or so vans that haul both people and equipment for detention and other divisions.
The sheriff’s office also has assortment of trucks, ranging from late model pickups to a 44-year-old Oshkosh tractor that once pulled an armored personnel carrier which the agency no longer owns.
Sykes also enumerated eight utility trailers among the agency’s vehicles, including one that he said is used to transport a boat which belongs to the NC Wildlife Commission.
Sykes went on to concede that about 20 of the agency’s vehicles currently serve either as spares or are decommissioned and awaiting disposal either at auction or as hand-me-downs to Alamance Community College. The major noted that the community college uses the sheriff’s old patrol cars both for basic law enforcement training and as teaching tools for aspiring auto mechanics.
Sykes said that even those vehicles which are designated as spares are not always well suited for everyday use. He emphasized that the patrol division’s spares are often those cars which are on the verge of retirement, which he admitted comes sooner for law enforcement vehicles than for those in civilian use.
“We have a high turnover,” he stressed. “Five years is about as much as we get from our patrol cars, and they’re going to be in the 130,000 to 150,000 mile range.”
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