Newer cars equally vulnerable to harm


When the Kearny Police Department took delivery of 12 brand new Ford Police Interceptors last summer, the new SUVs were hailed as the new generation of police vehicles.

These replacements for older model sedans were expected to be sturdier, more fuel efficient and more adaptable to the bulky mobile gear like mobile data terminals that have become standard police equipment.

And, for the most part, the new cars have lived up to those expectations.

But they’ve also proven to be vulnerable in high-impact crashes.

This year alone, one-quarter of the new fleet has been totaled, prompting the mayor and Town Council to authorize replacements for two vehicles with proceeds from insurance reimbursements.

There wasn’t enough money to cover a third vehicle, according to Deputy Police Chief George King. 

So, at the June 28 meeting, the municipal body voted to purchase, under state contract, two 2016 Ford Explorers (Police Interceptors) for $65,776 from Chas. S. Winner Inc. of Cherry Hill.

For those curious about how the three 2015 Interceptors came to be disabled, KPD Police Lt. John Taylor, head of the department’s traffic unit, provided these accounts:

On April 15, at 2:45 p.m., Officer Alan Stickno was responding to an emergency call with his car’s emergency lights and siren activated, traveling south on Schuyler Ave. as a Toyota operated by Lloyd Jagnandan, 48, of the Bronx, N.Y., was backing into a driveway to make a K-turn to go north on Schuyler.

Officer Stickno, proceeding south, was moving around a tractor-trailer when the Toyota emerged onto Schuyler making the turn, forcing the officer to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting the Toyota.

The maneuver, however, caused the officer’s vehicle to collide with stairs and a railing in front of 321 Schuyler, with the impact causing the vehicle to spin into an auto repair lot at 375 Schuyler and strike two parked cars before coming to a stop.

Stickno was taken to Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, for treatment of an injury to his left hand and returned to duty. The Toyota driver was issued a motor vehicle summons.

On April 21, at 8:30 a.m., Officer Theamaris Hernandez was driving north on Kearny Ave., with lights and siren activated, enroute to the Rt. 7 Wittpenn Bridge where someone was threatening to jump, when a 27-year-old North Arlington resident operating a 2015 Acura east on Stuyvesant Ave. entered the intersection in the path of the police car and a collision ensued.

Officer Hernandez was later taken to First Care, Lyndhurst, for pain in her left hand and wrist and ultimately returned to duty. The Acura driver was ticketed for failure to stop and yield and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

And, on May 29, at 11:20 a.m., Officer Benjamin Wuelfing, with lights and siren on, was headed to the Walmart on Harrison Ave. on a report of a shoplifter running from the store, traveling east on Bergen Ave. when a Lincoln SUV, driven by Francisco Vinueza, 48, of West New York, going south on Windsor, moved onto Bergen.

To avoid hitting the Lincoln, Officer Wuelfing swerved to the northeast side of the intersection, striking a parked vehicle, and the impact drove that vehicle into two other parked cars.

Wuelfing was taken to First Pain for injuries to his head and left hand and released. Vinueza was issued summonses for failure to stop and yield and disregard of a stop sign.

With police vehicles constantly on the road, and always subject to call in emergency situations, “these things are going to happen,” King said.

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