Vancouver Police Department: ‘Men in Blue’ Go Green

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With the goal of becoming one of the greenest cities in the world in mind, Vancouver is deploying more EVs for their police force.

In 2012, when he retired from active duty with the Vancouver Police Department at age 53, Rob Rothwell thought he was finished with police work. Then he got a call from the VPD’s Chief of Police.

“He asked if I would serve the force in a civilian capacity as its fleet manager,” says Rothwell. “I thought it might be OK—for a couple of years.” Now, six years later, he’s in love with his second career, managing 525 vehicles and using his experience and specialized knowledge of the needs of a metropolitan police force and the people who serve in it, to support the VPD’s efforts in modern policing.

Managing the vehicle fleet for a police force in one of Canada’s largest cities has its particular challenges. Along with the technical know-how to meet the needs of specialized functions such as SWAT and crime scene investigation, Rothwell must have the ability to deal with Vancouver’s civic bureaucracy, and to satisfy their purchasing requirements.

“There is a distinct need for transparency when you are working with a civic administration, where there are taxpayer dollars to consider,” Rothwell says. “You can’t just pop down to your local dealer and get a vehicle.”

Greening the fleet

“We work with the City of Vancouver to make sure that, not only are taxpayers getting value for the money spent, and that the police are properly equipped to be safe and effective in their jobs, but also that we are meeting civic objectives in terms of carbon footprint,” he says. Vancouver is aiming to be the greenest city in the world by 2020.

To that end, Rothwell says he is always looking at powertrains. Both plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles are definitely on his screen.

“There is a lot of room for electric vehicles outside the patrol function. In instances where we have to send a detective out to do interviews, or similar uses, we are certainly looking to deploy more EVs,” he says.

Rothwell notes that the VPD has just acquired 20 electric vehicles for detectives to use. He describes himself as a “big proponent” of electric vehicles in policing.

These days the fleet is more diverse, with specialized vehicles for functions such as beach patrol. The VPD also operates water craft.

Technology challenges

As for the average patrol car, Rothwell says it has become a lot more complex. “The use of technology in a modern patrol car is amazing. That’s something to think about when you’re planning for maintenance and repairs. There are a lot more things that can go wrong with one of these cars,” he says.

With every passing year, Rothwell becomes increasingly engaged with the job of running such a diverse fleet. “I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I can contribute to the efforts of the Vancouver Police. For me, it’s about making the job more effective and helping to keep our people in the field safe,” he says. “I’m glad I can put my knowledge and 30 years of experience to good use helping our people in the field.”

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