The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has become the first local government in California to prohibit most county agencies from buying or using sport/utility vehicles. The board recently approved a policy directive banning the purchase or routine use of SUVs “unless a substantial necessity is demonstrated.”Supervisor Steve Bennett said it would be another way to reduce emissions and save money. A similar proposal, signed last November by former governor Gray Davis and scheduled to take effect January 2005, requires state agencies to justify a "critical need" for an SUV or four-wheel-drive vehicle. Police and other emergency services using the state's 73,000-vehicle fleet are exempt. Last year, Ventura County supervisors ordered fleet managers to begin replacing sedans with hybrid-electric vehicles. The county has just 26 hybrids in its 1,500-vehicle fleet. Fleet Manager Tony Patton says that current hybrid models are too small for government use, and the county must wait until current vehicles wear out before replacing them with more fuel-efficient models. Sheriff Bob Brooks defends his department's use of 36 SUVs saying they are used to patrol rugged terrain inaccessible to standard patrol cars. However, most are used by field supervisors to carry equipment to crime scene investigations. According to Brian Kelly, policy consultant for state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, a standard fleet vehicle costs $9,000 less than an SUV and would save $14 million over four years.