What started as an aside in the Police News Iam Keen column last year ended up as a report to the Police executive.
Iam Keen’s comment that some frontline staff were finding the headroom in the back seat of the Holden Commodore ZB liftbacks “a bit snug”, especially when transporting those who had been arrested, was picked up by media.
Police responded that there had been no complaints but promised to survey frontline staff about the issue.
Next thing, the issue is being considered by the executive and the decision was made earlier this year to replace the liftbacks with the station wagon version of the Holden Commodore ZB.
The restricted headroom wasn’t the only issue raised by members. Other matters included:
• Reduced leg room in the rear seats.
• The shift from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive and lack of specialist training on the difference in handling.
• Having a flat spare tyre that has to be inflated before it can be used, instead of a space saver tyre.
• Some members were worried that the new smart cars were, well, a little too smart with auto braking and auto stop functions detracting from driver autonomy.
• There was also positive feedback about improved performance and handling.
Rob Morgan, Police’s manager fleet management, says potential health and safety implications caused by the lack of headroom in the rear seats swung the decision to switch to the wagons.
Mr Morgan says its was known when the vehicles were being tested that there was less rear headroom (1.3cm less), but it was not considered enough to rule the vehicles unfit for purpose.
As it turned out, he says, issues did manifest themselves and it has been dealt with.
A lot of things are simply a matter of opinion, he says, or about getting used to change and new technologies.
“Not everyone has the same problems, but enough staff did for the executive to make the decision it has.”
In terms of the car’s smart technology, Mr Morgan says it is necessary to achieve the required ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Programme) five-star safety rating for Police vehicles.
The liftbacks will be retained and transitioned into other policing roles where they are not expected to be carrying passengers in the rear seats.
Districts can continue to use the liftbacks as they see fit, he says.
Because the wagons are the more expensive option, to stay within budget 16 fewer vehicles will be replaced in the 2019-2020 vehicle replacement programme.
Under the programme, 373 wagons will be rolled out from July 1. Police is providing a total of 500 new vehicles this year, including vans, motorbikes and 4x4s.