Dave McCoy, the new chief of police at the University of Richmond, may not have a background in sustainability, but thanks to him, the University’s Police Department is in the process of converting to a fleet of hybrid vehicles.

The police force had already begun the process of purchasing a new vehicle when McCoy arrived at the University this past spring. He quickly saw a way to increase fleet efficiency while supporting the University’s sustainability goals, so he stepped in to cancel the order.

“I wanted to see how the department could be more efficient within our primary role of public safety,” McCoy says. “Fleet maintenance ranks very high in terms of budgets, so that was a key area for me to look at. [And] it makes sense to support the [sustainability] efforts under way here at the University and elsewhere.”

Until this semester, the police fleet was composed of Ford Crown Victorias, a model favored by many police departments, but not sustainability advocates — the Crown Victoria gets only 17 miles per gallon. Plus, according to Megan Litke, sustainability coordinator, transportation is a major focus of the University’s climate action plan, which was completed last December.

With all of these factors, a change was clearly needed. But not just any hybrid model is suitable for a police force. In his search for a satisfactory replacement, McCoy had to find a model with space for emergency medical equipment, as well as speed for maintaining quick response times. The Ford Fusion Hybrid proved to offer the answer.

Thanks to the conversion, the University’s Police Department will not only save money on gas, but also will significantly reduce emissions. For every Fusion added to the force, the fleet is expected to save approximately 190 gallons of gas per year. McCoy expects to replace one Crown Victoria with a hybrid vehicle each year.

Other vehicles on campus, such as facilities trucks, are also getting a look, although a transition may be further down the road. “The technology isn’t there to get [hybrid or electric] trucks for campus that will still do what they need to do,” Litke says. “We’re going to keep watching the technology, and as soon as technology expands and the vehicles they use to really haul equipment are available in different forms other than just gas-powered cars we’ll switch to those.”