- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

D.C. police officers are reluctant to bring in patrol cars for normal maintenance because the wait for even minor repairs, like oil changes, is more than a week.
The delays are the most recent fleet management problems blamed on Serco Management Services Inc., the private contractor hired by the Metropolitan Police Department to make automobile repairs.
Serco's handling of the $4 million-per-year contract has been under scrutiny by city officials since The Washington Times reported that the company was overcharging and double-billing the city.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey promised to rebid the contract, but the executive director of corporate support has not submitted a bid package for advertisement. Since Oct. 1, when the contract expired, police have been dealing with Serco on a month-to-month basis.
Serco is also behind schedule by about a month on the installation of sidecars on police motorcycles used to escort top dignitaries around town. The sidecars are supposed to be installed on the 40 motorcycles by Nov. 1 so the motorcycles can be used during inclement weather.
There are another 20 motorcycles that are out of service, awaiting repairs at Serco.
"I'm hearing they are dragging their feet because the contract did not get extended," a police department source said.
A department source said Serco has no incentive to hire additional mechanics or authorize overtime to repair the cars and motorcycles and install the motorcycle sidecars.
"It is like sending your car into a black hole," said a police department official.
"You send in cars for preventive maintenance and they sit there for more than a week."
Police sources said it appears that Serco has been doing only preventive maintenance since Oct. 1 and won't do quick fixes or other repairs on cars. As a result, some of the districts have 10 to 20 percent of their fleet in the shop. Police sources said anti-terrorism efforts have put even more strain on the fleet.
"We've been stretching it real thin," said a police source. "We're always looking for cars."
A police department employee said it takes more than two weeks for a brake job, and another employee said it took two weeks to get a mirror installed.
Brender Gregory, director of business services, said a backlog of unrepaired vehicles is not unusual.
Eric Coard, chief executive officer of corporate support, said he was not aware of problems of repair delays or installation of sidecars. He said there may be a perception among officers that it is taking longer to repair cars.
"The problem may be communication," Mr. Coard said. "We aren't doing a good job communicating. I'll look into it."
A Serco employee said they have been paying mechanics overtime to clear the backlog, which they estimate to be between 4 percent and 6 percent of the department's 1,600-vehicle fleet. The employee said that they are working on a schedule implemented by the police department to install the sidecars.
The Serco employee said that many officers get upset with them because of delays.
"All they see is they don't have a vehicle," he said. "It may have nothing to do with Serco. They see Serco as a focal point."
The Serco employee said that some of the delays have been caused by new controls implemented by Antonio Rouse, who became fleet manager in July. Before Mr. Rouse's hiring, the police department had few controls over Serco's work, which was criticized by the General Services Administration and the D.C. Inspector General.
David Tetreault, Serco manager, said he could not comment.
The motorcycle sidecars are supposed to be installed on all 40 motorcycles by Nov. 1. By Friday, there were three motorcycles with sidecars, but all three of those had to be returned because the sidecars were installed improperly.
Motorcycle officers said that the sidecars are needed to make the motorcycle safer in cold or wet temperatures. The officers said that wet leafs on the pavement are as dangerous for a motorcycle operator as ice.
Motorcycle officers said they will continue riding their motorcycles even without the sidecars to keep President Bush and other top officials safe.

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