Topsham PD takes the concept of recycling to new heights.
If you were to look up the word "traditional" in the dictionary, you would see a picture of my chief sitting comfortably next to it. After his 23 years in the state police before coming to municipal law enforcement you would expect nothing less. So when the idea came up to purchase a Volvo as a cruiser rather than the usual 18-foot boat on wheels, we were tempted to start checking IDs when he came to work. Nonetheless, we bucked the trend and joined a small but growing group of law enforcement agencies that saw something in this Swedish automobile.
There it was: a shiny 1982 Volvo 240 DL. Even the officers didn't quite know what to make of it. I don't mind saying that we faced several objections at the time of the purchase, the two most serious being the price of the car and the fact that it wasn't American. To be quite frank, one reason we even considered the Volvo was that we weren't all that satisfied with the current crop of American made cruisers. As for the price, the $10,000 sticker could only be justified over time. What a bargain this car turned out to be. As one of the first operators, I can say that driving a Volvo as a cruiser presented a very unique experience, which included the looks of amazement and disbelief from motorists.
As per our practice, this car became our frontline cruiser. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, this car served its community well until one fateful day.
In the late hours of May 1982, the officer operating the Volvo inadvertently turned into the path of another cruiser while in pursuit of an offender. The officer walked away from the accident; the Volvo did not.
Once the goodbyes were said and the Volvo began its journey to the great junkyard in the sky, we immediately went out and replaced it with an exact duplicate. This car, too, lived up to the standards established by its predecessor. For the next two years it served Topsham in the trenches, potholes and frost heaves as our frontline cruiser, asking little in return.
But like all good things, this too came to an end as it was time to face the realities of age and miles - not unlike us humans - and take on a new assignment.
For the next two years, our Volvo would perform as an unmarked cruiser, chauffeuring around the detective.
In 1986, however, someone new got behind the wheel. This one wore a uniform with a gold badge and stars on his collar. The Volvo became the personal cruiser for the chief of police.
Then, one summer afternoon in 1986, disaster struck. The chief had parked the Volvo on Main Street, right about the time an 18-wheeler was veering onto an adjacent road. At the precise moment of the turn, a wheel became dislodged from the trailer and decided to continue on its own up Main Street ... and into our Volvo.
The damage was extensive and the insurance company felt compelled to consider the Volvo totaled. The chief; however, worked out a deal with the insurance company, and for the next four years the little car continued to proudly parade our chief around Topsham, even getting to go home with him at night.
Then, one hot afternoon in July of 1990, our Volvo began its next tour of duty: a four-year stint as our animal control vehicle.
By now, our Volvo was eight years old and had been driven 170,000 miles. Its age and miles exceeded, by far, those of any previous police cruiser.
In 1994, the Volvo was parked for the last time by the police depal1ment. What was to become of this once proud professional?
As it turned out, Topsham's EMS director saw life where others saw junk. For two years our old friend could be seen zipping to ambulance runs, scenes of accidents or just transporting members of the EMS staff to training sessions.
In 1996, the Volvo traveled its last mile in the field of public safety. The hours, the miles, the drivers, the extremes of Maine weather have taken their toll on our old friend. But one thing is for sure: The taxpayers of Topsham got their money's worth from this car.
What's next, you ask? For $100 and a boost you can drive away in a legend.
Lt. Steven Edmondson is an IS-year veteran of the Topsham (Maine) Police Department and a regular columnist for the Bath-Brunswick Times Record. This is his first contribution to POLICE.