Coronado Eagle and Journal, Volume 67, Number 9, 14 February 1980
If you happen to be standing on a street corner one day trying to flag down a taxicab and a white Checker Cab passes you by with sirens blaring and a Coronado Police Department insignia on the door, don’t be dismayed. Coronado’s finest are not going into the taxi business. It’s just the newest addition to their patrol car fleet and any resemblance to a Checker cab is no coincidence. The city purchased its new patrol car from the Checker Cab Co. in Kalamazoo, Mich., upon the recommendation of Police Chief Art Leßlanc who had heard favorable reports from the Woodlake Police Department in northern California which was experimenting with using Checker cabs as patrol cars. The chief of Chula Vista jumped into the act and ordered four Checkers which have been in service there for the past two months.
The Checker is a relative newcomer to the Coronado scene having been on the road only a week now but a second Checker is on order for the city and although the styling and modeling may be right out of 1954, the Checker “may be the police car of tomorrow here today,” according to Leßlanc. Its durable and tough construction which includes seats specially upholstered for constant use, a radiator built to withstand long periods of engine idle, and an extra large alternator able to handle the extras of police cars such as lights and sirens, and heavy-duty shocks, springs, frames and bumpers made the Checker a natural for the wear and tear of police work. These items are standard on the Checker but lights, sirens and radar had to be added by the police department.
Leßlanc points out that there are a number of advantages to using the cab as a patrol car. “It’s larger, roomier inside and more comfortable,” he said. “The cars we are purchasing from the large manufacturers are becoming smaller and smaller each year and our officers find they do not have enough room in the passenger area for their radios and other equipment. The situation becomes horrendous when there are two officers in the car and it’s very difficult to put a prisoner in the back seat when there is a safety shield in the car. But the Checker is designed for room and can carry as many as four persons in the front seat and five in the back. “The car is built like a tank which makes it more durable and safer than the standard road car. It has a General Motors drive train and the parts are interchangeable so not only will the vehicle last longer but if we do pile one at least the repair costs will be less.”
Leßlanc said he expects the Checker to be in service a minimum of five years compared to the average two year life span of the seven Dodges in the department’s fleet and that despite the higher purchase price of the Checker ($9,300 compared to $7,500 for a Dodge) the city will save money in the long–run if the Checker does indeed double or triple the lifespan of the other cars. “Granted the Checker doesn’t have styling but in reality we’re not too interested in styling,” said Leßlanc. “Our main interests are efficiency, officer comfort and safety.”
Leßlanc admits that the Checker is a big car and that in handling it may tend to wallow and that its engine size may not allow it to outdistance a Corvette “but our police radios can outdistance any car” and the Checker is able to keep up with any other car in the fleet as well as with most cars on the road. Although Leßlanc is cautious about sounding too optimistic about the Checker until it has been on the road longer and has proven itself he has high hopes that this car will be at least as good as anything on the road today and in all probability better. “This is only an experiment but so long as it’s running well mechanically and it’s accepted by the troops and we’re going to save money by buying it we’ll keep it and eventually we may convert our whole fleet. “If we can save the city and taxpayers some money maybe we should try to. If the Checker works out It could mean saving taxpayers up to $50,000 every two years if the whole fleet were converted.”
Sgt. Richard Solomon is shown standing in the police department parking lot with the department’s newest addition- a Checker