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Old police cars find parking in retirement garages

By Jacinda Howard, The Mirror

Four soon-to-be retired police vehicles could find a new home with the Federal Way School District’s high school automotive programs.

The Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs Committee approved of donating the cars April 22 to automotive technology programs at Decatur and Federal Way high schools. The schools need the vehicles because they are relatively new and monitored by onboard diagnostic electronic systems, said Don Jacobus, Federal Way High School auto shop teacher.

“Today’s training is no longer the old-style mechanic training,” he said.

Each year, the police department evaluates the condition of its vehicles and determines which ones can no longer pull their weight with the police department. Vehicles are retired after seven to 10 years of use, spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said.

The department utilizes 86 vehicles. Of those, 50 are marked patrol squads, 13 are marked school resource, mall or training vehicles and 23 are unmarked vehicles, Schrock said.

The vehicles are typically used for five years in patrol squadrons, then moved to secondary positions as school resource, mall officer or training cars, she said. The fleet’s mileage and maintenance history is looked at yearly, and the five automobiles in the worst condition are then auctioned off, Schrock said.

This year would be an exception to that process. Local car care specialist Merle Pfeifer, owner of Sparks Car Care, suggested the police department instead donate the four 2002 Ford Crown Victorias to the school district. Pfeifer serves as a local connection for the school’s automotive programs and stays in contact with the auto shop teachers to make sure the skills they teach are up-to-date, said Luke Thompson, Decatur High School auto shop teacher.

Valuable donation

Receiving donated cars is always beneficial to the schools because the district does not have the money to buy several vehicles, especially newer models that are monitored by an electronic diagnostic system, Jacobus said.

“It’s extremely valuable to get a newer car in our shop,” Jacobus said. “We don’t have the budget to go out and buy cars.”

Federal Way High School currently has one 2002 model vehicle, which was donated in 2007 by Renton Technical College after the car survived a flood and could not be sold, Jacobus said. The school also has two late-model (built before 1998) vehicles, Jacobus said. But they are not a valuable teaching tool because they do not provide real-world training for the students due to the cars’ lack of updated onboard technology, he said. Decatur has four newer cars, which are late 1990s models, Thompson said.

“We are very thankful that we are being considered for this because we are limited in the way we can acquire new technology,” he said.

The police cars will benefit the schools for years to come. They are not driven away from the auto shops, so vehicles are good until their technology becomes outdated, Thompson said.

“They last us forever basically, until they are no longer useful because of the technology aspect,” he said.

Jacobus estimates the cars will serve their purpose in the auto shops for another five to eight years.

Had the police and city decided to auction the four vehicles, they would have collected approximately $1,500 to $1,600 per car, according to an April 10 staff report from financial analyst Heidi Hudson.

The Federal Way City Council is expected to make the final vote on the donation at its 7 p.m. May 6 meeting at City Hall, 33325 8th Ave. S.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com.

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Decatur High School’s automotive program was certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation this past September. Federal Way High School is also working to receive the certification.

NATEF certification indicates that a program teaches skills and standards developed and recommended by the automotive industry. It signifies the students are prepared for careers in the automotive care field.

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