To hear Clayton Kokotailo explain his City of Edmonton Fleet Services Branch auto mechanic job, you’d almost think he was describing heaven on earth.
He has, you see, one of the most unique jobs in the auto mechanic world – he builds police cars and trucks for a living.
And he just loves it!
After several years in the private sector where money – both his through flat rate fees and his employer’s as a result of Clayton’s production – ruled all, he says it’s a pleasure to work where employees are free to have a service mentality.
“After I spend a week putting together the components of a new police Interceptor patrol SUV, or a covert vehicle that almost no one will notice until it lights up, it feels great when one of the members compliments me and my colleagues on a great job,” he says.
“I build the car so if my family ever needs police help, the vehicle won’t let them down.”
“It’s an art. I get to fully exercise the right side of my brain.
Clayton and two colleagues work at Fleet’s ‘Police Build’ facility, a building itself best described as semi-covert – it’s out of the way, unmarked and unremarkable.
Inside, Clayton and his two colleagues each build about one police vehicle every week.
To produce marked patrol vehicles, they start with standard issue Ford Interceptor SUVs, complete with slight upgrades to tires and suspension, and flashing lights built into side view mirrors. Unmarked cars and trucks of many descriptions are brought in right off the lot. And every now and then, they build massive black Jack Bauer-style SUVs into vehicles for the Tactical SWAT team or the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team.
Over the week, mechanics install meter after meter of wiring and custom controls for sirens and as many as a dozen or more special police lights ranging from the roof-mounted flashing bar to virtually invisible, incredibly bright LED lights hidden in various places on covert vehicles. They hide radio antennae in covert vehicles.
The mechanics also install computers, front push bumpers, steel and hard plastic partitions in the rear seat of patrol vehicles, and rear seat dog-car kennels complete with backup auto-roll-down windows and fans to keep the ‘canine members’ cool in the event of engine failure.
Getting into all those nooks and crannies can be a challenge at times.
“We often have to remove the whole front bumper/grille assembly to install some of these things, because they’re building smaller vehicles these days, but packing more into them at the same time.
“It’s like doing surgery,” says Clayton.
Clayton’s married to Chantelle, an Edmonton Transit System operator. He’s the father of two teenage daughters.