Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies soon will be safer when transporting inmates and prisoners, Jeff Richards said.

The Dodge Chargers in the sheriff’s fleet currently are not equipped with cages, Richards, Franklin County sheriff, said.

“In the Chargers [inmates and prisoners] have to sit up front,” he said. “It will be safer for deputies and those being transported because it will keep them safer, just because it’s more of a controlled environment that way.”

Like other pieces of equipment, the cages from the Ford Crown Victoria models aren’t able to transfer over to the new Dodge Chargers because they don’t fit, Richards said.

The sheriff recently received the green light from the Franklin County Board of Commissioners to purchase three more Dodge Chargers, adding to the fleet and working to replace the Crown Victoria models, which no longer are manufactured, he said. Richards wasn’t aware the Chargers didn’t already have cages in them, he said.

“As soon as I got here, I found out we didn’t have [cages in the Chargers],” Richards said. “Then we started the process to make sure we did everything right to get them purchased.”

Getting bids for the purchase and installation of the cages has taken longer than anticipated, Richards said.

“It’s taken a bit of time to get to the commission to get them approved because we’ve been working on the budget,” he said.

Commissioners voted Wednesday to accept a bid from 911 Custom for the purchase and installation of cages in seven of the Chargers. Only Chargers being used for road patrol will have the cages installed, Richards said.

“It was the lowest bid by quite a bit on purchase, but their installation is a little higher. But based on experience with them, they do a good job with it,” he said. “If we purchased them [from 911 Custom] and had them installed at the other place, we’d have the expense of getting [the cages] to the installation place.”

The $10,411 for the purchase and installation is expected to come from the general fund, Richards said. The seven cages cost $6,736 to purchase and $3,675 to install, Richards said. The sheriff’s office will have to continue purchasing and installing cages as it works to phase out Crown Victorias from its fleet and phase in the Dodge Chargers because the cages do not come standard in the vehicles, Richards said.

Deputies driving the Chargers now are only able to handcuff and then restrain prisoners and inmates with seat belts, Richards said, since there are no cages and it’s unsafe to place prisoners and inmates in the back seat.

“You don’t want anybody sitting behind you while you’re driving,” he said. “If we have a prisoner that is combative, we use a prisoner transport van utilized primarily by the jail to transport larger numbers of inmates. Or if there’s not somebody else on the shift that has a cage, because there’s a few shifts where nobody has an older Crown Vic [with a cage].”