With worn-out transmissions, cracked frames, and some odometers showing more than 300,000 miles, the Philadelphia Police Department's fleet of cruisers is in dire condition, according to the largest officers' union.

John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, has filed a grievance stating that the department's cars are so decrepit that they are unsafe to drive.

"These cars are literally falling apart," McNesby said. "This has always been an issue, but it seems to be getting worse."

Members of the police administration agreed that the department's 1,500-plus vehicles are aging, but said no one is forced to drive an unsafe car.

"Every car that's on the street has to pass a state inspection," said Lt. Ray Evers of the public affairs unit.

The department uses about 640 patrol cars, 80 wagons, and 400 unmarked cars, Evers said.

The cars are constantly rotated in and out of service as they are worked on by the city's Office of Fleet Management, but McNesby said those repairs aren't always enough.

"Fleet Management does an excellent job, but they're working with junk," he said. "They'll reassign a car and put a new motor in it, but a new motor isn't going to fix it if the transmission is shot."

The constant repairs have meant that cars are sometimes in short supply when officers need them, McNesby said.

The department is looking for ways to beef up the fleet, Evers said. Last month it added 60 Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs engineered for police use. The department is also planning to buy 20 Crown Victorias from the State of New Jersey, Evers said.

McNesby and the administration both said the department's frequent car accidents further compound the problem.

A high number of accidents led Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey to say officers need better driving training. Future recruits must have at least three years of driving experience, a requirement Ramsey put in place last year.