Although police cars in the U.S. are based on standard production models of passenger cars, they are equipped by the manufacturer with features not found on regular vehicles. These unique "police" or "interceptor" versions of specific models are typically large sedans. The most common in North America are the Chevrolet Caprice, the Impala, the Ford Crown Victoria, and most recently the Dodge Charger. Lamborghini started equipping its Gallardo models for police work at the factory, but few (none) U.S. municipalities use them.
All the models meet the typical police car profile. The large sedans have ample room in the trunk for equipment, a back-seat area designed for suspects, and a powerful engine. Police departments occasionally purchase civilian vehicles with standard equipment and customize them for a specific use.
The following are twenty ways police cars are superior to regular cars.
20 Bulletproof Doors
Since 2006 Ford has offered bulletproof Kevlar lining on the Crown Victoria police vehicle. Both Ford and Dodge now offer a non-armor piercing shield, typically made from aramid baffles and ceramic ballistic plates. However, the extra protection is not needed everywhere. A 2016 news report claims Ford sells only 5 to 10 percent of their U.S. police vehicles with ballistic protection in the doors.
19 Stealing a Police Car is Nearly Impossible
Although it may be tempting for some criminals to jump into an empty idling police car and drive away, it is nearly impossible. A “Run Lock Ignition” installed on most police cars permits it to idle without a key in the ignition. If someone touches the brake pedal or parking brake, the car engine shuts off.
18 Orwellian Surveillance
Most police cars are now equipped with a surveillance system that automatically records and runs a check on the license plates of nearby vehicles. The system will also take a photo, record the time and location on the image, and store it for future use.
Although it may seem like a violation of privacy, the courts have decided the police can randomly check license plates.
17 Police Cars Wear Out Sooner than Regular Cars
While the stress and demands placed on a police car are much higher than those of the average vehicle, they wear out sooner because cops spend so much time parked and idling. Police officers often sit in their vehicles doing paperwork, using a radar speed detector, or eating donuts.
To gauge how much wear and tear the car has endured, police mechanics look at hour meters installed on them that measure how long the engine has been running.
16 High-Performance Engines
Modern-day Police vehicles must use engines that are high-performance, durable, and fuel-efficient. While V8s are still used for chases or highway work, most cop cars are now equipped with turbocharged V6s and even 4-cylinder engines. A few passenger cars have the power to outrun a police car, but none of them can outrun a police radio.
15 Special Coolers to Prevent Engines Overheating
A passenger car needs only a radiator to provide engine cooling, but a police vehicle that is subjected to harsh conditions and extreme use, needs dedicated cooling systems throughout the car. These systems include a beefed-up radiator with a larger fan, transmission and oil coolers, and often a power steering cooler.
14 Heavy Duty Seats
The front seats in a police car are not only heavy duty, but they are built to accommodate bulky police tools worn by officers. The Ford Interceptor seat features a cutout through the entire lower back designed fit a duty belt (sometimes weighing 10 pounds) with a firearm, magazine, flashlight, electronic control device, and other tools.
13 High Capacity Alternator to Handle Power Demands
The lights, radio, sirens other electrical systems and equipment on a police car consume more energy than the standard equipment on a passenger car. An alternator of a regular car produces about 100 amps of power, while powerful police vehicle alternators can generate as much as 225 or more amps to meet the electrical system demands.
12 Heavy Duty Suspension
The average passenger car in the U.S. tips the scales at about 4,000 pounds. Police cars are much heavier – about 1,000 pounds more, depending on the model and options. Because of the extra weight and performance requirements, police cars feature a reinforced suspension system. Police SUVs may use lowered suspension to reduce rollover risk.
11 Paint Scheme
In the U.S. each state, agency, or municipality determines the police car paint design. While most police vehicles used the classic "black and white" color scheme in the 1950s and ‘60s, more elaborate paint schemes with lettering and stripes are used on modern cars. Passenger cars are mostly painted a single color and most owners would not drive a car painted like a police vehicle.
10 Reinforced Roof
The roof of a police car is reinforced at the factory to hold the extra weight of the light bar and other equipment. Some modern cop vehicles use a Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) system that features high-resolution digital cameras mounted on the roof and positioned to cover the front and both sides of the vehicle.
9 Wideband Radios That Broadcast on Special Frequency Ranges
Police broadcast on special VHF and UHF frequency ranges designated for their use on wideband radios. The cars are configured to route the radio microphone to speakers integrated into the siren, using it as a public address system. Most passenger cars are not equipped with wideband radios and even truckers now use cell phone apps for communications instead of CB radios.
8 Swivel Mount for a Laptop Computer
Although some passenger car owners would enjoy a laptop computer mounted on a swivel base to check email, watch a movie, or play Fortnite and Minecraft while driving, law enforcement officers might object.
However, police vehicles are equipped with a swivel-mounted laptop computer, used when the car is stopped to access several databases, record witness statements while they're still at the scene, and complete paperwork.
7 Hard Plastic Back Seats
While some passenger car back seats are built for comfort, the back seat in a police car is anything but accommodating. The smooth vinyl or hard plastic makes cleanup easier when the seats are covered in one or several human bodily fluids. The seat is cramped which forces suspects to sit very low or bend their heads down, discouraging an attack.
6 Steel Mesh Cage and Bulletproof Glass
A combination of bulletproof glass, steel mesh cage, and steel plating is installed behind the front seats in a police vehicle to protect officers from aggressive prisoners in the back seat. Some moms might like the same feature on their passenger car to protect them from overactive kids seated in the back.
5 Equipment Stored in the Trunk
Although some police cars have surveillance equipment in the trunk, many have bulky equipment needed at a crime scene, a first aid kit, a portable defibrillator, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, camera, a change of uniform, and other specialized tools.
Not found in the police car trunk are items typical of a passenger car like tennis rackets, golf clubs, roller blades, plastic baby toys, strollers, and the family cat that went missing two days before.
4 Red Interior Lights
Passenger cars use white or subtle colors for interior lights except for those owners who want to create a Saturday Night Fever discotic effect inside the vehicle. Police car interior lights are switchable from typical white to red lighting. Red lights have less effect on night vision allowing officers to read a driver's license or other paperwork.
3 Heavy Duty Brakes
Momentum is an indication of how difficult it is to stop an object and is defined as the mass of an object times its velocity. Newton’s second law of motion states, something with more mass moving at the same acceleration as a lighter object requires more force to change its speed or direction.
Therefore, heavier police vehicles need more robust brakes to stop.
2 Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety
Police officers no longer need to “call in” a car license plate number and wait for the home office to run an outstanding warrant check. Modern-day police drive vehicles equipped with DDACTS technology. The high-tech surveillance system constantly snaps high-resolution photographs and syncs with the police database, allowing officers to identify and catch criminals more quickly.
1 Only Police Cars and Emergency Vehicles Have Sirens
Police typically use specific sirens for different situations. They employ the classic "wail" on the open road when traveling at high speed and approaching an intersection. It penetrates the cabin of a vehicle better than other types of sirens, meaning drivers (even those with the radio blasting or wearing headphones) can hear it. In high-traffic situations, the "yelp," is used to encourage other vehicles to move out of the way.
Sources: proctorcars.com, quora.com, thenewswheel.com, policeone.com, forbes.com