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New squad cars equipped and on patrol

Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers stands with one of the three new squad cars the department is putting into service. (Kevin Cederstrom / Enterprise)

The first of three new Park Rapids Police Department squad cars is fully outfitted and on patrol in the community. The Ford utility vehicles feature a black and blue color scheme, bringing a modern sleek look to the department.  The squads are outfitted with new mobile laptop computers and computer aided dispatching system software that provides vital information at the officers’ fingertips.  The mobile computers are new to the department and Chief Terry Eilers says the upgrade will allow his officers to park some place while on patrol and do reports rather than having to go back to the office, resulting in more on the street time.  The computer aided dispatching allows officers to receive information on the computer as the dispatcher is typing information, a process that will speed up traffic stops and other response calls.  As part of the new computer equipment and software, the squad cars are equipped with a driver’s license swiping system and a printer which can print tickets on the spot.  

“This speeds up the time of ticket taking and cuts a traffic stop down to just a couple minutes,” Eilers said.  Park Rapids PD is now linked directly with the state software reporting system, which makes statewide and county information more readily available.  Once officers swipe a driver’s license into the system sensitive information will appear on their computer screen and will show an offender’s traffic record, any warrants and what the warrant was issued for. Eilers said the system can also provide officer alert in certain situations such as if a person is a known gang member.  

“This is nice because it lets the officers know what you’re dealing with,” Eilers said.  The Park Rapids PD raised about $16,000 through individual and business community donations to pay for the three computers. The department was also awarded a grant from the Office of Traffic Safety to pay for a portion of the computers.  Additional tools in the new squads include video cameras used to record traffic stops. Eilers said this will also be a useful tool in that video is downloaded onto the computer and syncs directly with the county attorney’s office for review.  The process is expected to cut down on paperwork between the agencies.  

The utility squad cars are equipped with front and rear seat cages. The light bars and radios were able to be used from some of the old squad cars.  The department chose to depart from the previous blue color scheme to black vehicles with blue trim representing the “Thin Blue Line” in honor of the National Police Officers Memorial.  Eilers said the department decided to change the colors to black and changed the striping with a different graphic to give the squads a more modernized look.  

The Park Rapids City Council in May unanimously approved the purchase of three new police cars to replenish an aging fleet. The purchase also included various upfitting parts (partitions, window bars, consoles and decals) for a total of $33,000 per squad.  The original request was for two vehicles but upon the recommendation of the finance committee the council approved the purchase of three the same year for maintenance purposes.   The new squad cars replace two 2011 Crown Victorias, a 2008 Crown Victoria and a 2006 Durango.