The sight of a police vehicle elicits a variety of feelings in everyone, some stronger than others. “Most people are affected with fear, respect, and concern when they see a police car around them,” says Leon James, a University of Hawaii psychologist.
Perhaps it is a reminder of a fun night on the town that got out of hand, that stack of unpaid parking tickets or the time jaywalking near a cop car was diverted to avoid paying a $250 citation.
While the police car has always represented enforcement authority, it is now composed of much more than just motor, tires, and shocks.
In the nearly 120 years since the introduction of the first police cars, they have evolved into mobile enforcement offices with state-of-the-art surveillance and information technology.
Here are twenty secrets most people don’t know about police cars.
20 Identify an Unmarked Cop Car
An unmarked police car can be identified by the light bars built into the front grille, or at the top of the dashboard.
The vehicle has several antennas, the side mirrors are a bit different, and the license plate number is sometimes a giveaway. These features are easier to spot in your rear-view mirror after the officer has turned on the flashing red and blue lights.
19 Rumbler Alerts Drivers Who Can’t hear a Siren
Primarily used in the U.S., a Rumbler is a unique type of police and emergency vehicle siren.
The low-frequency sound, developed in 2007 by Federal Signal Corporation, is designed to be heard by motorists who have the radio volume cranked up, are wearing noise-canceling headphones, or have screaming kids sitting in the back seat.
18 K-9 Police Vehicles Require a Special A/C
K-9 police vehicles are extraordinary, equipped to keep police dogs comfortable and safe. The cars include additional gears, temperature sensors, and an upgraded A/C system that allows police officers to leave the dog inside the idling car in some situations.
A special cage provides protection for the canines in the event of a collision.
17 Meek-looking Ford Taurus Police Interceptor a Beast
In 2013 Ford introduced the Taurus Police Interceptor (and an Explorer version) to replace the phased-out Crown Victoria models. While the car didn’t strike fear in the hearts of any potential speeders, its performance was commendable.
The 365-hp 3.5-liter Ecoboost V-6 gave it the best acceleration in a Michigan State Police test, reaching 60 mph in just 5.75 seconds.
16 Not All Cop Cars Have Ballistic Protection
Ballistic Protection installed in police car doors typically made from aramid baffles and ceramic ballistic plates is an option. Although all NYPD patrol cars are installed with ballistic door panels and bullet-resistant window inserts, most police vehicles have none.
In 2016 Ford sold only 5 to 10 percent of their U.S. police vehicles fitted with ballistic protection.
15 Police Can Remove keys and Keep the Engine Running
Cop cars have a feature called Run Lock, that permits an officer to remove the keys but keep the car engine idling so the lights and other electrical systems can still function, and the battery stays charged.
However, if anyone looking to go for a joyride jumps into the car, the engine shuts off the moment the brake pedal or parking brake is touched.
14 Big Brother is Watching
Using state of the art surveillance equipment in their cars, police officers are capable of consistent vigilance. Whether a police vehicle is patrolling or standing idle on the road, it can check plates numbers, take photos, and tag them with location and date stamp for the record.
The process is entirely automatic. The officer needs only to enable the system.
13 California Highway Patrol Mustang GT Disguise
In the early 1980s the California Highway Patrol (CHP) ordered Ford’s most conservative notchback Mustang, one that looked like it couldn’t catch a VW Beetle, but inside it packed a punch.
The Mustang GT components included a 5.0-liter V-8 paired to a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual and the speedometer maxed out at 160 mph.
12 Police Cars that Dispatch Drones
Drones are becoming an integral part of law enforcement. Police have used drones to help find suspects, find stolen equipment, and scan for hot spots that weren’t extinguished after a warehouse fire.
They are being used as first responders, reaching a scene of an accident well before a squad car arrives. Drones are dispatched from police headquarters or a police car.
11 Ford Crown Vic "Police Interceptor" Was a Lame-Duck
Ford owned nearly 80 percent of the police car market for several years, dominating with a severely underpowered car. The Crown Victoria Police Interceptor produced only 250 hp., but when the Corvette-powered Caprice ended production in 1996, no high-performance replacement was available.
The Dodge Charger Hemi V-8 muscle sedan ended the drought when the police version was introduced in 2006.
10 Police Cars Track Engine Idle Hours, Not Miles
While maintenance events for passenger cars are scheduled according to mileage, on police cars, they are based on engine hours. Police officers often leave their car engines running while parked and engaged in numerous activities, like checking the identity or credentials of individuals at the scene of a crime.
The dashboard engine hours meter is a better indicator of wear and tear than an odometer.
9 The Crown Victoria Police Car a Truck?
Despite the lack of power and distinctive appearance, the Crown Victoria was successful for decades because it lacked competition and was easy to drive and maintain.
The sturdy Crown Vic was built more like a truck than a car, making it easy to repair when a police officer was involved in a fender-bender.
8 1969 Polara Pursuit Top Speed Record
Chrysler dominated the market for performance cop cars in the 1960s. The 1965 Dodge Polara Pursuit powered by the 413-cid V-8 reached the quarter mile in a mere 15 seconds, speedy for the time. However, the real monster was the 1969 Polara, with the 375-hp 440 Magnum.
On the company's Chelsea Proving Grounds high-banked oval, it held the record for a fastest top speed of any Chrysler police car at 147 mph.
7 Facial Recognition System for Police Cars
A violation of personal privacy or a necessary crime-fighting tool? Facial recognition systems are now available for police cars. One system is designed as a light bar that converts a regular police car into a smart patrol vehicle.
It provides facial recognition, license plate recognition, speed measurement, and it can detect parking violations even while moving.
6 Chevy’s Code Name B4C Cop Car
The Chevy cop car package with the code name B4C, was a wolf in sheep's clothing. A Z/28 Camaro was hidden under the bodywork of a low-performance RS Camaro.
In 1993, the 4th generation Camaro boasted a new 275-hp LT1 350 V-8 capable of accelerating to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds on its way to a top speed of more than 150 mph.
5 The Legendary Caprice 9C1 Cop Car
The 1994–1996 police version of the Caprice 9C1, equipped with the Corvette 260 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque LT1 V-8, was legendary.
It would blast through the quarter mile in under 15 seconds, making it so desirable and durable that police agencies (it was rumored) spent their budgets to restore the 9C1 cars rather than buying new Ford Police Interceptors.
4 U.S. Border Patrol Raptors had Cloth Seats
The Ford SVT Raptor is the ideal vehicle for the rough ground and hard running along the desert-lined southernmost border of the US. Civilians usually order the Raptor with costly silky-smooth leather seats that have a pleasant smell and a high level of comfort.
The Border Patrol Raptors were ordered with cloth seats, perhaps for the lower cost, durability, or to discourage dosing off by Border Patrol police seated in leather luxury.
3 1975 Chevrolet Nova 9C1 Police Sports Sedan
The Chevy Nova was well-known as a meek-looking, underpowered, benign vehicle purchased by civilians for its low price. However, the 1975 police package Nova was a collaborative effort between Nova engineers and Chevy Camaro.
The result was a GM sports sedan for the 1970s that was relatively quick and proved to be more than adequate for chasing down speeding suspects.
2 100 Electric Police Cars in LA Cost $1.4 Million
Despite unique requirements and harsh treatment, police vehicles are also going green. In June of 2016, BMW signed a contract with BMW to supply the Los Angeles Police Department with 100 electric cars.
According to the police chief, the program, costing about $1.4 million over three years, “made sense for taxpayers and for the environment.”
1 Ford builds a hybrid-powered police SUV for 2020
Ford announced plans to build its first pursuit-rated, hybrid-powered police SUV in 2020. The next-generation Ford Police Interceptor is part of Ford’s investment of over $11 billion in battery-powered electric vehicles by 2022.
Hybrid versions will be offered for every mainstream model in North America as well as a full battery electric vehicle (BEV).
Sources: popularmechanics.com, thrillist.com, jalopnik.com, motor1.com