Issue Area 1: The State Police Needs to Develop a Cost Effective Fleet Requisition Plan When Purchasing Four-Wheel Drive Vehicles.
The West Virginia State Police (WVSP) purchased 71 full size sport utility vehicles (SUVs -Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban) in the past three years at a cost of $1,973,383. In comparison, the State Police could have purchased 71 four-wheel drive Jeep Cherokees at a cost of $1,569,597, a difference of $403,786. In addition, the large SUVs are more costly to operate. Over a three year period, at 30,000 miles per year, the 71 large SUVs gasoline costs are approximately $88,461 more than the cost of gasoline for 71 Jeep Cherokees. The Legislative Auditor's Office estimates that at a minimum over a three-year period, the 71 large SUVs will cost the State a minimum of $492,247 more to purchase and operate than 71 Jeep Cherokees.er a three year period.
The State Police should work with the Purchasing Division by providing the specifications to the type of SUV's or 4 WD vehicles needed to perform their police duties. These specifications should include interior room, resale value, operational cost per mile, and, when possible, road handling and crash ratings.
The State Police should reduce its inventory of large SUVs through attrition. These vehicles should be replaced with more efficient and lower cost midsize SUVs or sedan cruisers. In areas where 4 WD SUVs are necessary, it is recommended the State Police purchase the SUVs that provides the best compromise between cost, performance and safety.
I: Issue Area 2: The State Police 4x4 Vehicles Are Not Assigned To Counties In Relationship To Snowfall.
The State Police informed the Legislative Auditor's Office that they allocate the number of four wheel drive vehicles assigned to a detachment based upon manpower levels and whether an area typically experiences severe winter weather. SUVs are helpful during inclement weather and allow for off road use in rural areas when needed. They are to be assigned to areas with higher snowfall and rough terrain. Appendix A summarizes each county's population, number of police vehicles assigned to that county, number of SUVs assigned to the county, and the 30-year average annual snowfall for the county.
For example, the state police assigned 23% (38 of 166) of their four wheel drive vehicles to Kanawha County which has 20-40 inches of snow fall annually. In contrast, none of the 13 State Police vehicles stationed in Fayette County, which receives between 30-55 inches of snow annually, are four wheel drive vehicles. Another example is Wyoming County. There are four State Police troopers stationed in Wyoming County. However, even though Wyoming County receives between 25-40 inches of snow annually, it has no 4-wheel drive vehicles assigned to the area. Finally, some 4-wheel drive vehicles are assigned to locations such as the Executive Office of the State Police, Traffic Records/Motor Vehicle Inspection and to the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety when some rural detachments have none. The State Police should review whether they are appropriately assigning 4x4 vehicles throughout the state.
Issue Area 3: The State Police is supplementing other Agencies' Vehicle Fleets.
The review of the State Police vehicle inventory indicates eight vehicles are assigned and are being used by five other state agencies. The State Police should attempt to transfer these vehicles from their inventory to the other state agencies' inventories.
Issue Area 4: Approximately 45% of State Police vehicles are unmarked.
An analysis of the West Virginia State Police fleet indicates that 45% of the vehicles are unmarked. Although unmarked vehicles are needed in some instances, marked vehicles encourage citizens to be law abiding therefore, the state may be losing the full deterrent effect of having troopers on patrol. Controlling for the 100 vehicles at the Bureau of Criminal Investigations which are all technically assigned to a Captain, 87% of the remaining unmarked vehicles (243 out of 278) are assigned to Troopers of the rank of Sergeant or higher.
In response to an inquiry regarding troopers commuting to and from work in agency vehicles, the State Police acknowledged that:
Since citizens have no way of knowing whether the Trooper is on or off duty, the state receives the additional direct benefit of these 'free patrols' as drivers respond to the police presence in traffic by driving more conservatively and fully complying with the traffic laws. The thousands of hours derived for these uncompensated patrols is a significant part of the State Police traffic safety enforcement and crime deterrent program and represent a man-hour equivalent of many full time Trooper positions that currently do not exist.
If this is true, it would also stand to reason that a more visible police presence would make even more of an impact.
The State Police should consider whether having 45% of its vehicles unmarked is appropriate given the positive effect vehicles have on encouraging citizens to be law abiding.