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 Department, Montclair (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 Department, Kansas 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.