February 12 - 18, 2009


p. 32.

Mysteries of the cop cruiser

We see police cars almost every day, whether in passing orwhen we are pulled over. Hvae you ever been curious about what makes a police car different from our own regular cars?

One of the most popular models of police car on the road today is the Ford Crown Victoria
One of the most popular models of police car on the road today is the Ford Crown Victoria

Ever since the advent of the automobile for consumer use, law enforcement agencies throughout Canada and the U.S. have kept pace with every day drivers with vehicles of their own, states

Even before Henry Ford cranked out his first Model T, in 1899 a police car was travelling the streets of Akron, Ohio via electricity to assist the public and fight crime. Since then, the police car has taken on new roles and has become one of the most technologically advanced vehicles on the road today. Even though a police car is essentially the exact same car that we drive, the technology within a single vehicle can be astounding to the ignorant motorist.

Police departments throughout North America operate a variety of vehicles to patrol the streets. Some departments prefer SUVs or trucks due to constant inclement weather or the nature of the terrain within their jurisdiction. Many SUVs, trucks and cars are manufactured by Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet. The most popular models of police cars on the road today include the Chevrolet Impala and the Ford Crown Victoria.

One of the most common questions asked concerning police vehicles is whether they are 'souped up' or not? Most of these vehicles do have a police package, meaning that they do have a bit of extra horsepower provided via the ECU (engine control unit) and are not speed limited, as the electronic speed governor or rev limiter hs been disabled for high speed chases. Other than that, most police vehicles are the same as the ones that we drive, provided you own a V8.

Some police vehicles also have a few exterior enhancements. Some also have hardened bumpers or devices attached to the front of the vehicle in order to allow for the ramming of other cars.

Much of the technology found in police vehicles is found inside of the vehicle. One of the technological advantages of a police car is the communications system. Most police cars have a collection of antennas protruding from the trunk or roof of the car and for good reason. Usually there is only one radio within the car, but due to the collection of antennas, a police officer has access to a variety of bands and channels. For example, one antenna maybe dedicated towards communicating with other police cars or dispatchers. Another antenna may be dedicated towards monitoring the CB radio traffic of truckers. Finally, another antenna may be similar to that found on HAM radios, so this antenna may have use in emergency situations to communicate with other departments some distance away.

Maybe just as important as the communications system are the various lights found on a police vehicle. The lights of a police vehicle serve a variety of purposes, but mainly to alert a driver to slow down when a police vehicle is on the side of the road. Another reason for lights, to the chagrin of some drivers, is to pull over to the side of the road. Typically, the lights of a police vehicle are red and blue and are located within the vehicle or on top of the vehicle via a light bar. The lights are red and blue in order to accommodate those out there that are color blind, (if someone cannot tell the difference between blue and green, they will surely be able to see the red light and vice-versa).

The lights are controlled via a central console within the police car, which means that certain lights can be switchedon and off whenever an officer wants. For example, if an officer simply wants to activate the headlights in a 'wig-wag' motion, it takes a simple flip of a switch. The same goes for the other lights on the car. The spotlights, which are the bright maneuverable lights located near the side mirror on either side of the car, are controlled by separate switches near the lights.

Another item in a police car is a station and a power hook up for the mobile computer system that allows an officer to look up license plates and driver's license numbers. In the old days, an officer would have to call a dispatcher on a radio to obtain this information, but now, a driver's information is simply a click away (there is typically an antenna for this as well).

One final item located within a police vehicle to be aware of is the video camera.

Video cameras have been in use within police vehicles for some time now due to the fact that they assist police departments in gaining convictions when a case is taken to court.

Typically, the camera itself is mounted a few inches away from the rear view mirror and faces outwards.

Be aware though, that there are microphones within the police vehicle to monitor your every word if you happen to find yourself in the back of one. The video that a camera picks up is sent via cable to the trunk of the police vehicle for recording.

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Created: July 18, 2009
Last modified: July 19, 2009
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