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April 23, 2003
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Officer Safety Alert: Dodge Intrepid Patrol Car Brake Fires at Nashville Metro PD

Dodge Intrepid Patrol Car Brake Fires at Nashville Metro PD

Special PoliceOne Officer Safety Report

Nashville, TN Metro Police have grounded a new fleet of police vehicles because of safety concerns over front brake fires. Metro Nashville purchased 50 new Dodge Intrepid patrol cars and put them through simulated chases last month. The result was fires in the vehicle's front brakes.

After the initial simulated chase last month, where two car's brakes caught fire, Nashville police returned to the test track to conduct simulated pursuits with two other Intrepids, this time with representatives from Daimler Chrysler looking on. The result was the same. Ten minutes into the pursuit, the brakes were on fire -- that is, open flames in the front wheel wheels according to Calvin Hullett, local president of the Fraternal Order of Police.

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The Chrysler Group is diligently investigating the issue. According to a prepared statement, preliminary evaluations reveal that the Nashville Metro Police Department did not the follow the recommended vehicle break-in procedures in their service manual. Instead, the department conducted extreme performance testing with brand new vehicles instead of following the owner’s manual guidelines. The Chrysler Group has received no reports from other departments regarding brake fires.

PoliceOne advises departments with newer model Dodge Intrepid Patrol cars to consult with their fleet managers about testing and their legal advisors concerning liability issues. An open flame at the front of the vehicle combined with the possibility of a crash during a pursuit creates a very dangerous officer safety issue. We also recommend that new vehicles be broken in as recommended by the service manual. Many vehicles require their brake pads to be broken in or "burnished" before being put in high performance situations such as pursuits. According to the Chrysler Group, 200 miles of regular driving is sufficient to burnish brake pads in new vehicles.

However, concerns at the Nashville Metro PD were heightened last week when the brakes on another Dodge Intrepid police vehicle used by Metro Parks caught fire while on routine patrol. Metro legal director Karl Dean has now advised departments to immediately ground the new fleet. He says he expects the city will attempt to cancel its contract to purchase the vehicles. "Once you get the information that we received about these tests, the prudent -- the safest -- thing to do is to park the vehicles," Dean says. "We think we need to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our employees and the public."

The Chrysler Group continues to stand by its vehicles. "With over 5,000 Intrepid police vehicles currently in use, the company has no reports from other police departments regarding this issue during a test or in real world driving" according to a statement from the company. "Chrysler Group stands-by the integrity of the Dodge Intrepid police vehicles, which are subjected to a wide range of strenuous tests. The vehicle has one of the highest rankings in the Michigan State Police tests cycle, which is the most widely recognized police standard."

Departments with questions or concerns about their fleet of vehicles should contact Gerry Appie, Manager DaimlerChrysler Fleet Engineering, at (248) 576-4117 or GLA7@DaimlerChrysler.com.

For more information on the situation and to view the original news video clip, visit: www.newschannel5.com/news/investigates/brakes.htm.

Sources: Member Submission; Nashville Metro; Nashville News Channel 5; Chrysler Group



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