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Wrecked patrol car was still insured, sheriff says
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Jan. 22, 2009) — The patrol car that rolled Wednesday night may still be fully insured after all, Sheriff J.B. King discovered Thursday morning after checking insurance records.

King had thought a Wednesday night crash by Deputy Jimmy Bench, who totaled his vehicle driving on Highway 28 on his way to an emergency call, meant his department would lose thousands of dollars in vehicle replacement costs because the county commissioners voted earlier this month to direct their insurance agent, Ken Bassett, to drop all insurance except state-required liability insurance from the older-model cars.

“The commissioners made the decision to drop the full coverage on a bunch of our patrol cars. However, the detail was in the fine print — the insurance company was quoting that for the next round of coverage that hasn’t taken effect yet,” King said. “The nine extra cars they took the full coverage off, we’ll have full coverage until some date in March.”

After the change takes effect, King and virtually all of his deputies will be driving patrol cars that carry only minimal insurance. The exceptions, King said, will be a 2005 Ford Windstar jail van, 2004 Ford Club Cab pickup, and a 2005 Dodge Durango SUV.

While many of the patrol cars are older vehicles in poor condition with 200,000 or more miles, King said that wasn’t the case with Bench’s car, even though it had more than 160,000 miles.

“Deputy Bench is a mechanic who used to run a garage in the Richland area and he maintained our cars for many years. This particular car was one of the better ones in our fleet, all around,” King said.

The total amount saved by the county commission by reducing the insurance coverage wasn’t immediately available, but King said the replacement cost probably would have exceeded the savings in insurance expenses.

While the patrol cars are often older vehicles that may not be worth much money, King said the main cost in replacing an older patrol car after an accident is the radio and light bar equipment, which are often worth more than the vehicle. Radios and light bars can be transferred from one patrol car to another if an older car is taken out of service, but that doesn’t always work with a crash, especially in a rollover.

“The car and the light bars are toast; the rest of the items, we’ll have to take a look,” King said. “The radio unit itself is bolted into the trunk, which is one of the safest places in the vehicle, so they are not going to move that well. But it also means that any catastrophic jolt will get transferred to the inside of the radio and we don’t know what condition the radio is in.”

The cost to replace the light bar will be $1,550 including shipping, King said. The radio repair or replacement cost isn’t yet known.

“A lot of this stuff we won’t know until we examine it,” King said.

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