How the chip shortage is affecting rollout of new patrol vehicles in SoCal

One agency said due to the shortage, officers are unable to use 25 new patrol vehicles.

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Friday, August 19, 2022
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Law enforcement vehicles require certain computer microchips that need to be installed, and due to the shortage, some agencies say some cars and SUVs are just sitting idle waiting to be used.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Law enforcement agencies across the country are facing challenges when it comes to their fleet of vehicles.

"We are currently driving other vehicles that we normally would, by now, switch out but we are driving them a little more past 100,000 miles," said Sgt. Maria Lopez with the Santa Ana Police Department.

At the height of the pandemic, supply chains were disrupted when factories closed. One item that has been hard to come by are computer microchips, which are crucial in new cars and police cruisers.

Lopez said because of the shortage, they're unable to use 25 new patrol vehicles.

She said they already have these vehicles in their possession but are waiting on the microchips and other components to be installed in order to convert them into police cruisers.

"Police units have computer special systems within the vehicle, the light bars, other lighting systems that go within the vehicle so all that required microchips" she said.

Microchip manufacturers are facing backlogs because of the high demand so police departments are competing for them - just like everyone else.

"It's about doubled the amount of time it takes us to get a vehicle," said Matthew Monzon, the director of research and development for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

He said so far, all 135 vehicles they've ordered have been impacted by the chip shortage.

"We just can't get cars," Monzon said. "They're actually canceling orders. We'll order with a major manufacturer. They'll cancel it or they cut the order in half."

In addition, Riverside Police said they've had the same issue.

The agency said purchasing new marked black and white vehicles has been pushed back eight months because of the shortage and delayed maintenance due to some vehicle parts.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Department said they are running their vehicles longer than they normally have for the last couple of years.

They said they had three years' worth of replacement vehicles arrive within a month. The department said at least 75 Chevrolet Tahoes need to have police equipment installed.

"The chip shortages did affect our fleet department in which we saw long lead time on vehicles," said Sgt. Edward Soto with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. "Due to the current ongoing market conditions related to microchip shortages and supply chain issues, the lead time of receiving vehicles is approximately eight to 12 months long. To adapt to the shortages, the department is dealing with higher repair costs for vehicles that would have been taken out of service."

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department is on the same boat.

"Currently the sheriff's department, like many government agencies, are battling chip shortages for vehicles," said Gloria Huerta, the public information officer the sheriff's department. "We have a fleet of over 2,100 vehicles. The rollout of vehicles to our fleet has been slowed down. We maintain a succession plan and active monitoring to our fleet. We project our vehicle purchases for several years out. This allows for us to continually roll out vehicles on a monthly basis and have a minimal impact to our field operations. Our impact is not as severe as smaller government entities may be battling."

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department said they haven't order any microchips due to budget issues.

"We too are experiencing the same challenges. However, due to significant budget curtailments, LASD has not been able to replace our fleet vehicles for the past couple years," said Lt. Robert Furman. "Therefore, we have not experienced the delays due to the chip shortage like my counterparts throughout the nation. We simply haven't ordered any. The shortage doesn't only affect police vehicles. We have ordered some light trucks for specialized units. In the event we can secure the funding, bids often go unanswered because there simply isn't anything available. In the event one goes through, what used to be a four to six month delivery, can now be expected to take more than a year."

So how will this impact public safety?

OCSD and SAPD said the community does not have to worry about response times when calling for service.

"There will be no impact to the community. Our response times will be unchanged. It's just our deputies are going to be rolling in a little bit older cars with a little bit more miles on them," Monzon said.

"The shortage in the microchips is really not affecting our policing," said Lopez. "We are still going out there."