This week when the Berea Police Department unveiled its new Model 3 Tesla police vehicles, it certainly raised some eyebrows.
And some tempers.
Social media was abuzz on Tuesday with talk of the department's new additions.
Some community members were outraged by what they saw as a gross abuse of taxpayer money on luxury vehicles -- especially in the midst of a global pandemic, economic hardship, and recent weather damage from an ice storm and flooding.
Considering the circumstances, the backlash is understandable.
On the surface, it seemed the department was representing the very reason why the "defund the police" movement continues to gain traction.
However, looks can be deceiving.
Berea Police Chief Eric Scott knows that all too well.
It's why he spent months researching, crunching numbers and talking to the more than a dozen other police departments across the country who have used, or currently using, Teslas as police cruisers.
What he learned convinced him and the city leaders to test the waters on all-electric police fleet.
They are not the first, nor will they be the last to do so.
In January, President Joe Biden announced plans to replace the government's fleet of cars and trucks with electric vehicles assembled in the U.S., after signing a new "Buy America" executive order.
Other sectors already have plans in place to switch to electric vehicle fleets.
The US Postal Service plans to replace its aging trucks (which keep catching on fire) with a fleet of 180,000 battery-powered vans. Amazon commissioned a fleet of 100,000 delivery vans from EV startup Rivian, which are set to hit roads starting in 2022.
As a government authority whose vehicles are used constantly on the roads each day -- burning through gallons of fuel each week -- it makes sense for local police departments to try and do the same.
While the threat of climate change continues to be a topic of debate, one thing that always makes sense to taxpayers is saving money and time.
Which, the department is in line to do, with the three new Teslas.
According to a cost comparison between the Model 3 Tesla and the more common Dodge Charger provided by the City of Berea, the Tesla is expected to save the police department $5,688 a year per vehicle.
That is on fuel, oil changes, and maintenance alone.
While all cars need some maintenance -- police cruisers perhaps more so.
In Bargersville, Ind., the police department bought their first Model 3 Tesla in August 2019. In July 2020, the police chief spoke with news media and said the only maintenance the vehicle needed in that year span was two new rear tires.
Furthermore, the cost savings for the Tesla versus the Charger seem to be better than expected for the police department in Indiana.
In an initial report put together by the department, it was suggested that the Model 3 would become cheaper to own compared to a Charger at its 24-month service mark. However, real-world data has proven to be even better, slashing the department's break-even to an estimated 19 months according to a tweet by Bargersville Police Chief Todd Bertram.
In addition to fuel, the Tesla also saves money for the department in the costs associated with retrofitting a Charger for police use.
Teslas have eight cameras already built into the vehicle itself, which police can use to record traffic stops and encounters. In addition to the savings made with the cameras, the large electric car battery means there is no need to install an additional 12-volt battery to handle the demands of the extra electrical equipment typical of a police car.
That superior camera technology on the Tesla, likely surpasses what the BPD were using on older police cruisers.
The BPD are also thinking ahead by incorporating a high-tech body camera system which can work alongside the Teslas' technology, which was also unveiled on Monday.
The department had body cameras before, but according to Chief Scott the new technology and automatic recording and uploading video features makes it easier for officers to record and file encounters with the public.
While it might seem like a luxury to drive a Tesla to work everyday, the technology the BPD has invested in could benefit the city and its citizens more than it does the officers that use them.
Officers and their police cruisers will not be out of service for frequent oil changes or fill ups, nor will their body cameras fall off during a struggle with suspects or during a foot chase. The automatic recording feature of the Body Worn cameras and the Teslas eight cameras ensures that additional angles of traffic stops can be documented without the officer having to even think about it.
That leads to a more transparent police department, which can also be held accountable if need be.
While the timing and presentation of the new equipment may not seem like the best, we feel the BPD has made a wise choice in investing in cutting-edge technology that we hope will make everyone -- officers, the public, and the environment -- safer.