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Cover Story

The New Recruits: In-Service Cop Cars

The next era of patrol cars has begun, as agencies start buying replacements for Ford's now-defunct Crown Vic.

August 06, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

The Ohio State Highway Patrol's Dodge Charger Pursuit. Photo: OSHP
The Ohio State Highway Patrol's Dodge Charger Pursuit. Photo: OSHP

Editor's note: View our slideshow of in-service patrol cars.

The glitzy unveilings of the new patrol cars seem like a distant memory now. Engine and drive-train specifications have become accepted fact. Police evaluators in Michigan and California have logged performance data. Now the real test arrives for the crop of vehicles replacing the venerable Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptor: They are going to the patrol cops.

Agencies with fleet-replacement budgets have begun selecting the Chevrolet Caprice PPV, Dodge Charger Pursuit, Ford Police Interceptor sedan, and Ford P.I. Utility to patrol their jurisdictions. And the first wave of new-era patrol cars—with agency badging, logos, and color schemes—have reached the streets.

Not all law enforcement agencies are choosing from the crop of new cars. Some opted to stockpile Ford CVPIs in 2011—the vehicle's final production year—or shift to the pursuit-rated Chevrolet Tahoe SUV.

Picking a new patrol vehicle hasn't been a uniform process, and agencies gave a variety of reasons for their choice. In some cases, cost primarily motivated the purchase. Other agencies sought payload capacity, interior comfort, performance, or rear-end crash safety. In almost all cases, the choice grew out of the agency's mission and environmental conditions in the jurisdiction.

Consider the following case studies from these four early adopters who have issued the new patrol vehicles to their officers for road patrol.

Forsyth County, Ga., Sheriff Ted Paxton told his staff he had just one requirement for the agency's cruiser that would replace the Ford CVPI—it had to have rear-wheel drive. That narrowed the choices to the Chevrolet Caprice PPV and Dodge Charger. The agency ultimately went with the 355-horsepower V-8 Caprice, which delivers lights-out performance. The Caprice was the top performer when first tested by the Michigan State Police's Precision Driving Unit in 2010.

"I can tell you at high speeds, they hold the road very tight," says Capt. Tim House, the sheriff's commander of administrative services. "There’s not a lot of drift. For overall acceleration, the car is extremely fast."

So far, the sheriff's office has received 19 vehicles, including 14 that have been painted two-tone black and white. Another 16 were ordered Jan. 1. The agency now has about 230 marked patrol units in its fleet of 322 vehicles.

Once a vehicle is painted, the agency installs a Havis cage, Motorola radio system, Apex lightbar, Panasonic Toughbook mobile computer, and a Digital Safety Technologies’ DP2 in-car video system.

The Forsyth County Sheriff's Caprices patrol a jurisdiction in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains about 45 minutes north of Atlanta in a mostly rural county of 175,000 residents. So far, the vehicles are averaging 10 to 12 miles per gallon in fuel consumption.

Other agencies that have chosen the Chevy Caprice PPV include the Aurora (Colo.) Police Department, Brunswick (Maine) Police Department, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Police Department, Henderson (Ky.) Police Department, Kentucky State Police, Lowell (Mass.) Police DepartmentMontclair (Calif.) Police Department, Thomasville (Ala.) Police Department, Washington County (Ore.) Sheriff's Office, Washington State Patrol, and Yakima County (Wash.) Sheriff's Office.

Like the Forsyth County sheriff, the Ohio State Highway Patrol also wanted a rear-wheel drive patrol car and a V-8 engine to replace its fleet of aging Ford CVPIs.

Earlier this year, the agency issued the first batch of 2012 Dodge Chargers to road troopers for enforcement. So far, about 20 have been added to the agency's 1,200-vehicle marked fleet. The decision will keep the highway patrol from having to retrain its troopers to use a different type of  drive train.

"The Ford CVPI is a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, and all of our people have been trained on rear-wheel-drive vehicles," says Lt. Anne Ralston, the patrol’s spokesperson. The rear-wheel drive train is "proven and reliable for law enforcement work," Ralston adds.

The agency also likes the Charger's cabin size and trunk space, which both exceeded those of the Ford CVPI. Vehicles are retired at 130,000 miles. The new Chargers were purchased for $22,737 each.

In recent years, the agency has shifted to silver from white for its marked units and replaced its traditional red-and-white lightbar with a blue-only LED lightbar. Supplemental red lighting is added to the front grill and rear of the vehicle.

In addition to the CVPI converts, some agencies that shifted to the Charger when it was first introduced in 2006 stayed with the vehicle after evaluating the Caprice and Ford interceptors. Belvidere (Ill.) Police Department Chief Jan Noble said his officers liked the legroom and headroom in the vehicle, as well as the outer appearance.

"We felt the vehicle projected the image of fair but firm enforcement," says Noble, who shifted from the Chevy Impala. "It just has a 'let's get up and go appearance.'"

The Charger has continued to improve since its 2005 model year, according to Oklahoma County, Okla., Sheriff John Wetzel. "Our mechanics have done work on Fords and Chevys," he says. "The Chargers have held up better than anyone ever expected."

Other agencies that have chosen the Dodge Charger Pursuit include the Albuquerque (N.M.) Police Department, Cape Coral (Fla.) Police Department, Hackettstown (N.J.) Police Department, Hazard (Ky.) Police DepartmentKansas Highway Patrol, New Holstein (Wis.) Police Department, Orangeburg County (S.C.) Sheriff's Office, Randolph (Mass.) Police Department, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Tags: Dodge Charger, Ford Police Interceptor, Chevrolet Caprice, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Marion County (Fla.) Sheriff, Georgia, Massachusetts State Police, Managing a Police Fleet, Belvidere (Ill.) PD


Comments (5)

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

Sean @ 8/17/2012 7:43 AM

We just got the new Ford PI. Looks nice but the door is a small opening to get out of for taller or wider cops. The trunk also has an over-kill of foam for the spare tire. We just cut out the foam we didn't need.

abe2571 @ 11/8/2012 4:14 AM

First let me say these new cars have been a long time coming. It's about time we get some modern police cars. Whatever you brand preference is I'm sure most of you will like it. For the agency I work for we went with the Ford sedan with AWD and Ecoboost. Time will tell with the durability but it has been well like by most who are driving them. Not quite are room as the vics for the bigger folks so we ordered some of the Explorers too with AWD. Because we have many sandy forest road the AWD was a big factor in the decision process and have been complimented many times by the drivers. Performance and handling have been great. Overall they have been well accepted with few gripes and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. No vehicle is perfect though. Enjoy the new crop of police vehicles whatever you choice is.

Ima Leprechaun @ 6/15/2013 5:31 AM

Nice to see the flying dougnut again, it makes me homesick.

Ima Leprechaun @ 6/15/2013 5:43 AM

My favorite Police Car of all time was the 1975 Chevy Impala. Great room, perfect pursuit brakes, easy to drive, very fast, great turning radius and a huge trunk. But those cars are gone now. It had no computer, it was tough as a tank and still carried the 350 V8 with a heavy duty transmission and sway bars. This car never failed me in any situation. It handled great on snow and ice and drove like it was glued to the road. It had plenty of interior room from all my stuff, the radio gear, the radar and tough seats with back support. It had a large back seat to keep prisoners in without putting their knees in their nose and it had a great 360 degree visablity for the driver. Those days are gone now though and every choice today is a compromise of some kind.

Ima Leprechaun @ 6/15/2013 5:45 AM

Sorry missed the "h" in doughnut.

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