Small Town Arkansas Cops Lead Hybrid Patrol Car Charge

The New South starts in a place called Arkadelphia.

Arkadelphia, Arkansas, a hamlet of 10,714 people that probably got its name because Philadansas didn't have quite the same ring (just kidding, Arkadelphians), has given up The Old Ways. And, in doing so, it has embraced two taboos: Japanese cars and hybrids. City Manager Jimmy Bolt realized he could issue the force a three-percent raise by swapping Ford Crown Victorias for Toyota Camry Hybrids. It took him a while.

Police Chief Al Harris wanted Chevy Tahoes for patrol. But when Bolt finally got Harris to drive the Camry Hybrid, the the latter changed his mind. Since 2010, the department has replaced ten of its Panther-platform Crown Vics for Japanese counterparts. In doing so, it also replaced the Ford's $2,500-per-month repair bills for maintenance concerns that haven't gone beyond flat tires, and cut the weekly gasoline bill in half, getting 27 mpg in the city instead of 13. The best benefit might be what the chief calls Stealth Mode: When the car goes to electric running and "you can be on top of something before the bad guys realize you're there."

Old school Arkadelphia patrolman Don Cleek, who still rides the Panther, said, "I drive a good ol' American V-8 with rear-wheel drive and a full frame like they were meant to be." But even he conceded that the Camry can do everything it's asked to do. New school patrolman Kevin Yeagle, who might have "Camry Life" among his numerous tattoos (if Cleek and Yeagle had their own web series, we'd never miss an episode), made sure not to identify as a greenie but still had only one word to say when asked if he wanted to go back to driving a Crown Vic: "No."

Other police departments around the country use the Camry Hybrid, but we've only heard of them issued to detectives, not used as patrol cars. So way to go Arkadelphia. When the South rises again, it'll do so in Stealth Mode.