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L.A. County Sheriff's Department to get electric Mini Coopers

June 16, 2009 |  4:30 pm

The Mini Cooper doesn't immediately leap to mind as the kind of vehicle associated with policing, where preferences traditionally skew toward the wide-bodied and horsepower heavy.

But an experiment by Sheriff Lee Baca could mean a place for the diminutive set of wheels in a fleet that includes Ford Crown Victorias, Chevy Caprices and Dodge Chargers.

Under a pilot program approved Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the sheriff will get 17 electric-powered minis and electric charging stations at the locations where the cars are assigned.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the vehicles will be distributed across the department, including administration offices, specialized units and for use in recruitment and for volunteers.

"It's clean-energy, it's cost-effective and it could prove to be a boon for the county," Whitmore said.

The cars are being donated by Mini U.S.A., a subsidiary of BMW, and will cost the department a $10-a-month processing fee. Maintenance of the vehicles and charging stations will be covered by BMW. A lease for the car typically runs $850 a month.

Mini wants feedback as to how the vehicles drive and handle in Los Angeles County road conditions, Whitmore said.

He called the experiment another example of how the sheriff is looking for "alternative ways to improve" how the department operates.

--Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Los Angeles Times