It was way back in 2008 that Riverside voters overwhelmingly voted in support of an advisory referendum asking if they supported the village taking an active role in pursuing “green” initiatives.

Since that time, the village has followed through on a number of fronts – from repaving two large parking lots and a couple of alleys with permeable pavers to incorporating permeable pavers into the East Burlington Street/Longcommon Road streetscape project to making it easier for homeowners to pursue solar energy solutions.

The latest manifestation is the Riverside Police Department’s purchase of a hybrid patrol vehicle, the first of its kind in the village and hopefully not the last. As a matter of fact, if the hybrid vehicle turns out to perform as expected, we’d encourage every police department and village to begin incorporating more of these green vehicles into their fleets.

In the past, there had been some pushback against hybrid vehicles from police leaders, mainly performance-related. Police squad cars have a historic reputation as being hotrods of a sort, high-performance vehicles capable of running down bad guys driving shabby getaway cars.

In recent years, however, most police departments have begun dialing back on the “French Connection” philosophy of car chases, because they’re simply too dangerous. In any case, these hybrid vehicles are fully capable of being powered by gasoline engines when the occasion calls for it.

Where the benefit of hybrid vehicles will be felt is in the way cops work day in and day out. Patrol cars often sit for hours, idling and burning gas in order to be ready at a moment’s notice, or as officers wind their way through communities slowly, hardly in need of perpetual high-performance.

When hybrids idle, they keep the car powered up by using battery reserves, which can be replenished by the engine kicking in when needed for short periods of time. And for routine driving while on patrol, the lithium ion battery provides plenty of power needed to get from Point A to Point B.

This is going to save Riverside expense on gasoline and will be a more Earth-friendly alternative in an era where we can all do more to decrease our carbon footprints.

When it comes to changing long-held traditions, it always takes someone to break the ice. That’s what Riverside police have done with their decision to purchase the hybrid, and we hope it’s the start of a wider initiative to replace not just police vehicles, but others in municipal fleets.

It also provides an example to local residents who may still look askance at hybrids, though that prejudice may be softening as the hybrid technology improves. If it’s good enough for the cops, how can it not be good enough for chauffeuring the kids to school, dance classes and baseball practice?