In times of great tragedy, law enforcement agencies are called upon to have emergency services available to all, and that can be a challenge when need is at its peak. Such was the situation in Ferguson, MO where civil unrest brought a heightened need for law enforcement, and additional police vehicles were assigned to provide support for the safety and well-being of every citizen.
Yet there are still the needs and responsibilities of the daily beat, the emergencies that are no less tragic but are part of the regular commission of the job. For these times when a greater presence is required, the fleet managers of St. Louis’ law enforcement, and all across North America, are prepared to provide more. For them, “no” is not an option.
“Everyone has been putting in twelve-hour days, and all the rec(reation) days and vacation days for officers have been suspended during this situation,” said Michele Ryan, CAFM, Supervisor of the Vehicle/Supply Unit for St. Louis County Police Department. “I get one rec day a week, and on mine I go in to do my normal work duties.”
Ryan, a Trustee for NAFA Fleet Management Association, has been involved with the responsibilities of setting up the St. Louis Police mobile command center, as well as supplying the center with necessities like computer connections, medical supplies, cooling units to combat oppressive summer heat, and even sunscreen. When it is all done, Ryan will also be responsible for closing everything down. “That calls for scheduling the public works people to take care of the parking lot we’ve been using for the command center, for refurbishment in areas of the building we’ve been using, and much more. I’ll coordinate it all to make sure it looks as if we were never here.” Ryan’s efforts for the police department have been coordinated through the Emergency Operations Center in St. Louis County.
A situation such as this is, according to Ryan, is difficult if not impossible to plan for. Therefore, quick thinking and recognition of what the moment entails are essential. “(On the first night) we immediately put out an all-department email requesting that new cars not be sent to the post in Ferguson.” Aware that damage to the vehicles was inevitable, only the vehicle glass was replaced, and the same vehicles were recycled nightly, protecting the fleet from extensive damage and repair/replacement probability.
NAFA’s Law Enforcement Group (of which Ryan is a member) is comprised of, and is focused on, fleet managers who have police, fire, EMS, or rescue vehicles in their fleet. NAFA Members are responsible for the continued functionality of over 180,000 police sedans; 43,000-plus emergency vehicles; and 460,000 pieces of specialty equipment used by law enforcement fleets. When the situation demands, they also go above and beyond their traditional duties.
“It’s been a matter of essentially setting up and running a small city,” Ryan said. “At our busiest, we were running approximately 200 police officers through the command post each day, and about 500 overnight. All of them need bathroom facilities, cooling centers, the medical tent with medical supplies, food, as well as things you wouldn’t guess, like sunscreen and contact lens fluid.”
NAFA Fleet Management Association thanks the members of its Law Enforcement Group (LEG) who strive daily to provide the means for these custodians who serve the community. The ability to arrive on time to help — from something as commonplace as when a car breaks down unexpectedly, to the most extraordinary of circumstances — requires law enforcement and public safety vehicles that are ready to run right now. NAFA’s LEG Members from all across North America accept this challenge to keep police cars active and on-call for every citizen in their worst hour, with respect and goodwill to all.