If you’re like most people, a police car is a sign of trouble and not much more. Essentially, many folks think it’s nothing other than a normal car with a higher performance engine and a specific paint job to alert folks that it’s a police car (as if the sirens on the roof didn’t convey that notion already). But to a police officer, it’s so much more. A mobile office, mini-crime lab, high-tech criminal catching machine that greatly enhances an officer’s effectiveness and safety.
While most police cars begin life on the same assembly lines as their normal, everyday counterparts, once the auto manufacturer has finished with them, they go on to a police vehicle outfitter who takes them to the next level. From high-performance powertrains, to “perp cages” in the back, to computer stations and more, the average police car has more technology in it than just about any other vehicle on the road.
Since each officer has to spend hours of training learning not only how to drive the cars in high-performance situations, but in learning how to use all the specialized equipment, it’s no wonder a lot of police men and women become attached to their rides.
20 Electric Eye
No, this isn’t about the hit Judas Priest song from the 1980s, although the song’s lyrics are apropos to the topic. Modern police cruisers are now equipped with computerized license plate readers. While the officer used to read the plate, repeat it over a radio to someone at HQ who would run the plate through a database, then report back to the officer any info they came across, it’s much easier these days. The electronic eye reads the plate, searches the database and then displays the relevant information for the officer to read on their in-car laptop. What sort of info do they have access to? Just about all of it, like how much you paid for the car, where you live, work, any traffic or criminal violation history and whether or not you’re a registered gun owner. Big brother wears a badge.
19 Little Red Button
Sure, it might seem like a great idea to hop in a police car and take it for a joy ride at breakneck speeds. But, we highly advise against it. While it might appear easy in a video game, police cars are actually outfitted with a switch you have to push in order to shift the car out of the park. The switch is normally hidden in a place most would never think to look, which prevents people from hopping in and going for a joyride – even in a Porsche. While we know where the switch is, in the interests of public safety, we’re going to keep that between us the law.
18 Special Tires
The general public doesn’t quite understand how much technology goes into modern car tires. While most have multiple layers of rubber and steel belts welted together, some tires have layers of Kevlar and even memory foam. When it comes to police tires, they’re essentially street tire versions of racing tires, equipped with all the latest technology to ensure even the fastest of police rides stay stuck to the ground no matter who or where they’re pursuit takes them. If you want to ring your rims with a set of police pursuit tires, expect to shell out around $500 a tire after all is said and done.
17 Robocop Car
The fine folks at the Ford Motor Company are taking a page from the US military drone program, mixing it with Google’s autonomous car initiatives and tossing out something that looks like a crossover film featuring Robocop and the Transformers.
Not only will this rolling supercomputer have network connectivity with all the local law enforcement cameras, speed traps, traffic lights and what not, it will also have the ability to communicate with your car – which will gladly drop a dime on you if you’re speeding in the vicinity of Robocop car. So, don’t think just because you don’t see any police around that it’s ok to speed in any area where this Mustang is on the job.
16 IT Department Anyone?
If you’ve ever taken a peek inside the front seat of the average patrol car, you’ve probably thought you were looking into the server room for a small business. With multiple computers, multiple radios, a gun safe and even a place to lock a shotgun to the dash board, the cockpit of a police car is one-part techie-heaven one-part small armory.
When they take your license and registration, odds are they already know all the information on it, since the license plate reader pulled all your info up on the laptop.
But, you better give it to them anyway, since the only thing less intelligent than breaking the law in the first place is failing to cooperate with the officer who is simply doing their job and trying to get on to their next task.
15 Recruit much?
Many police forces and public safety organizations apply special paint schemes to normal police cars in order to use them as recruiting tools.
If you can get a teenager who likes cars to stop and chat it up about what’s under the hood, you might be able to get them to consider law enforcement as a viable career option.
While most police academies don’t do a ton of public advertising, having an officer drive around town in a car done up like this can certainly draw attention. Then, it’s just a matter of introducing the teenager or young adult to the opportunity to serve and protect.
14 Can't Outrun a Tracker
Straight out of Mission Impossible, the Blacklist or the latest Spider-Man comic book or flick comes this next piece of crime-stopping technology. When you think you’re leading a high-speed pursuit and you actually get away, think again. Many modern police cars are equipped with trackers they can shoot at other vehicles. Once the tracker is attached to the other car, the officers can simply slow down and take their time chasing the criminal, since they know their every move. Like Spider-Man, they can now slap a “spidey-tracer” on the bad guys and show up at the criminal lair at their leisure.
13 Smile, the camera is always running
Police dash cams are becoming so common most people have seen dash cam footage on the news or a “most wanted” type TV show. But, what many of us fail to realize is the police car and officers themselves have multiple cameras that are always recording.
That’s right, if you pass a police car that’ sitting in the restaurant parking lot while the officer grabs a cheeseburger and fries inside, guess what? You’re on camera.
Taking all that footage, combined with traffic cameras, security cameras and other public video recording devices can take us places we only thought existed in TV shows like Person of Interest.
12 CHP Z
The California Highway Patrol runs a fleet of high-speed pursuit vehicles in order to chase down those who want to get out on an open road and take off for parts unknown.
In the late 1970s, hot on the heels of the hit movie Smokey and the Bandit, they had a handful of 1979 Z28 police interceptors.
While the late 70s muscle cars were anything but fast by today’s standards due to the gas crunch and economy car trends, a Z28 in 1979 was more than fast enough to catch a Chevy Chevette, Toyota Celica or a Mustang Cobra II.
11 Everything is bigger, better and faster in Dubai
While the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is quickly becoming known as an architectural world wonder with no end of amazing skyscrapers, man-made islands and indoor skiing (in the desert!), they’ve also nailed down the record for fastest police car on Earth.
If you skip to the last entry about the first police car, you'll notice its 8 whopping horsepower could push it to 16 whole miles per hour.
Well, the Dubai PD’s Bugatti Veyron tops out at 253 mph. That’s only 237 mph faster than the original Akron PD ride, which is about twice as fast as most grocery getter passenger cars these days.
10 Ariel Atom
If you’ve logged any real time on any of the Gran Turismo games, you’ve probably spent at least a little time behind the virtual wheel of an Ariel Atom. With the ability to accelerate from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds and go from zero to 100 mph back to a halt again in 10.55 seconds, this ride is the last thing you want to see monitoring a speed trap when you hit it going over the speed limit. This version was designed to dissuade bikers from driving at reckless speeds. But showing people how fast you can go doesn’t seem like much of a deterrent to them wanting to go faster.
9 High Speed Fleet
Many police forces aren’t settling for just one or two high-speed pursuit vehicles. In fact, some have a wide variety of chase units.
In many US municipalities, they’ve taken to using high-performance vehicles seized from criminals, using decals and painting them to match the force’s designs and putting them in the field as pursuit cars.
But, for those places with far deeper pockets, like Dubai, they simply buy Lamborghinis, ZL1 Camaros and Bugattis, then have them outfitted with the aforementioned specialized equipment. Either way, whether you’re being chased by a seized Dodge Viper or a brand new Lamborghini Huracan, odds are you aren’t getting away.
8 D.A.R.E. to be cool
What began in the early 1980s in Los Angeles California spread all over the United States and can be found in most states. The D.A.R.E. program, which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, was created to help keep kids off drugs.
Now, the D.A.R.E. banners and slogans are painted all over police cars nationwide in all sorts of eye-catching designs.
Using the same intent as the cars done up to advertise careers in law enforcement, the D.A.R.E. cars are rolling advertisements aimed at keeping the peace and helping the next generation grow up healthy, while staying out of the sort of trouble that comes with drug abuse.
7 Design (a Car that Stops) on a Dime?
With the growing popularity of racing simulator games, we’re seeing a rise in tech-savvy youth who want to get into designing cars. Thanks in part to the Need for Speed game franchise, a substantial amount of them want to design police cars. With these high-tech designs come a substantial amount of innovations, including high-performance brake systems that use the brake force to recharge the car's batteries. This is tech that originated in dump trucks decades ago, then became a mainstay in many hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid. Applying that sort of power reclamation to a police interceptor is just plain brilliant.
6 Hot Pink
One minute your speeding along, minding your own business but not the speed limit and the next you see a pink blur behind you. You look up and don’t see a siren or lightbar on the roof and dismiss it, then the lights start flashing in your rear-view mirror.
A growing trend with police car designs is to place the lights behind the grill, where LEDs can transmit as much light as an overhead light bar, while maintaining the optimum aerodynamic air-flow over the car’s roof while it’s driving in excess of 120 mph.
5 SUVs make great K9 Units
For most officers working K-9 patrol (if you’re unaware, K-( is the official designation for police dog) become very attached to the animal “partners” they work with each and every day. To that end, it’s not a surprise that most K-9 units are now SUVs, which allows for more space for the dog.
To go a step further, these usually have rear air conditioning and heating, to make sure the pups don’t overheat or freeze.
A step beyond that is the new GPS and fan equipped collars the dogs have available to them so their human “partners” can keep track of them while the dogs keep their cool.
4 Go Ahead, shoot my door, I dare you!
Even though it’s almost a cliché for every police drama on TV and every police officer ever in a blockbuster movie, hiding behind a car door when someone is shooting at you isn’t a very wise move. Most car doors consist of outer and inner sheet of very thin metal, covered on the inside with a door panel made primarily of cardboard, plastic and vinyl. Hardly the stuff you can rely on to consistently stop high-powered ammunition. However, what most people don’t know is that most police car doors have a layer of Kevlar inside them to help prevent the bullet from passing through the door. Maybe the FBI agents on Blindspot do have the right idea after all?
3 Every Light Has A Meaning
For most of us, the multi-colored police lights atop the cars are a serious attention getter. But, did you know each light color has its own purpose? According to the folks over at legalbeagle: “Light bars have at least two colors. Red lights signify an immediate emergency. Blue lights define police presence and can be spotted easily from a great distance. White lights are used by night-shift officers to brighten dark areas or to shine on suspects who are traveling on foot or being interviewed. Yellow lights warn approaching vehicles that patrol cars are slowing down or parked on busy roads. All lights may be used at the same time.”
2 Tanks for the tip
When the police run into something that the average police car might not be able to handle, they break out the big guns. Usually this is some sort of armored personnel carrier; in essence, a tank with all-terrain tires instead of treads.
While most people might never see one of these in person, if you hear a knock at the door and see one of these out front, you might want to reassess your life choices, since the firepower involved in this is reserved for the largest of threats to public safety.
Not to mention, the standard handguns seen on most crime dramas won’t even scratch the surface of this cop car – and it’s capable of driving over most houses.
1 Seriously, 8 horsepower
The original police car hit the streets in Akron Ohio in 1899. With a blazing top speed of 16 miles per hour, it’s a wonder the officers behind the wheel didn’t get windburn. Fast forward to our current generation of law enforcement transportation and we find the Roman Traffic Police employing a Lamborghini Huracan that’s just a wee bit faster. Give this ride a straight road and a tailwind and she’ll do in excess of 190mph. Don’t try outrunning that in your modded Civic, odds are no matter how much boost you’re running this Lambo will eat your lunch while the officer reads you your rights.
Sources: Maxim.com, Telegraph.co.uk, topspeed.com