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Cops in the shop: Supply chain issues making it difficult to repair, replace police cars
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Automotive technician Bill Fields services a Gainesville Police Department car Friday. Nov. 12, 2021, at the Gainesville fleet service garage. GPD can't get 15 new cruisers because of supply chain issues. - photo by Scott Rogers

Don’t be surprised if the officer who pulls you over sputters up in a clapped-out Crown Vic — cop cars represent yet another casualty of the supply chain fiasco. 

Local law enforcement would like to replace their old cruisers, of course, but in many cases, they can’t, not for lack of funds but because there aren’t any new cars available.  

A shortage of computer chips is the main culprit, said Deputy Chief Kevin Gaddis of the Gainesville Police Department. And he doesn’t “have a whole lot of confidence” that they will be upgrading their fleet anytime soon — April 2022 under the best of circumstances, he said. 

If the supply chains were running smoothly, his department would soon be stocked with 15 spanking-new Dodge Chargers. And although the $607,000 price tag might seem hefty, he said, it probably costs more to repair and maintain the old cars than it does to buy new ones. 

“That is true,” said Dean Martin at Fleet Services, the car shop that repairs all of Gainesville’s police vehicles and firetrucks. “The maintenance on them, after about eight years, goes up considerably.” 

Worse still, the manufacturer stopped making parts for one of the Chevy Caprice models that some officers drive. 

“Chevorlet decided that they wanted to get out of the business of making a police package vehicle, so they quit manufacturing this car,” Martin said. “And so, yes, there are some things when they go bad we just can't get.” 

And the Gainesville department isn’t alone. The Hall County Sheriff's Office and Georgia State Patrol are also staring down backorders. 

“Typically, when we purchase vehicles, we order six-to-eight weeks in advance,” said Derreck Booth, spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff's Office, in an email. “In the current market, we have to order a year in advance to ensure delivery when we need them.” 

Like Gaddis, he blames a scarcity of microchips, as well as broader supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Georgia State Patrol, according to an agency spokesperson, is waiting on a delivery of cars it ordered, in addition to replacement parts for some of its current cars. 

Many local car dealerships are struggling as well, whose vast parking lots aren’t just sparse — they’re empty, at least at Hayes Chrysler Gainesville, according to car salesman Adam Ramey. 

Before supply chain issues struck, he said his dealership would sell upwards of 80 cars a month. Last month they sold just 43, many of which were preordered. 

The shortage is so bad, a salesman from another dealership said, that a metro-Atlanta car dealer offered him $10,000 over the retail price. Ramey topped that, saying he was offered $30,000 over the sticker price for a car, though he decided instead to sell it to one of his loyal customers. 

Gaddis stressed that the decision to purchase new patrol cars is driven more by necessity than luxury, adding that officers drive for the better part of the month for about 12 hours at a time. 

“We don’t buy cars just to buy cars,” Gaddis said. “We really drive these things until the wheels are about ready to fall off.”