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Fuel Mix Up Disables Police Patrol Cars

October 01, 2009

Police patrol cars in Baltimore have been restored to service after a problem in which a city gas station's unleaded tank might have been filled with diesel fuel, according to the Baltimore Sun. But the problems may not be limited to the city's pump.

About 72 cars, or about a third of the department's patrol strength, were affected by an apparent problem at the city fuel pump over the weekend of Sept. 19. Lab tests were being conducted to determine the precise problem.

Problems with the cars first began on the afternoon of Sept. 20. Later in the day, the city began diverting vehicles from the 24-hour, city-run substation.

A spokeswoman for the general services agency said 62 cars had been fixed by Monday evening, Sept. 21.

But in a sign the fuel problems may not be limited to the city's pump, a fleet manager for a Maryland Transit Administration contractor that provides services for the disabled said 17 of his buses broke down. After the contractor drained the fuel and replaced it with new fuel, the vehicles still wouldn't work. But the buses got back up and running after technicians worked throughout the weekend to fix the problem.

City police said their operations were strained but not significantly affected. Looking to address a budget gap earlier in September, the Police Department reduced the number of take-home cars available to mid-level commanders. The city spends $10 million per year on fuel.

The Police Department's fleet of 1,200 vehicles includes patrol cars, unmarked cars, and vans or "wagons" for transporting suspects. When a cruiser goes down, police turn to a pool of loaners. Those cars, along with others earmarked for neighborhood services and administrative functions, were moved into the complement of patrol cars.


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