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Car History

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Timeline and facts describing the history of police cars

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History of Police Cars...

1899 - The first police car was a wagon run by electricity fielded on the streets of Akron, Ohio. It could only go 16 miles per hour and needed to be recharged every 30 miles.

1920 - The New York City Police Department employed a fleet of Radio Motor Patrol vehicles to aid in its fight against crime in the city.

1932 - Ford introduced the Ford flathead V-8 in its Model B. The first low-priced mass-marketed car with a V8 engine gave it a brand loyalty that allowed it to capture the police car market until 1968.

1940s - The Big Three (Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler) began to offer specialized police packages with severe duty parts.

1969 - Plymouth took first place in the police market, with Chrysler Corporation’s powerful V8 engines giving them a compelling advantage. Chrysler held their lead until the OPEC-engineered 1970s - energy crisis drove buyers to smaller cars.

1970s – The Ford LTD and Chevrolet Caprice were re-adopted as standard when the models were downsized.

1996 - The Chevrolet Caprice product was terminated. Most police departments currently use the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor as the standard patrol car.

2011 - It has been announced that the Crown Victoria is to be discontinued in favor of the 6th generation Taurus.

Police Car Equipment

Equipment Consoles – used to house two-way radios, light, and siren switches.

Two-Way Radio – used for communication

Evidence Gathering – video cameras and sound recorder used to record activity either inside or outside the car.

Runlock – allows the vehicle’s engine to be left running without the keys being in the ignition.

Speed Recognition Device – devices to measure the speed of vehicles being followed.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) – uses camera to observe the number plates of all vehicles passing or being passed by the police car.

Vehicle Tracking System – alerts the officers to the nearby presence of a stolen vehicle fitted with a special transponder and guide them towards it, using GPS or simpler radio triangulation.

Common Types of Police Cars

  • Patrol Car: Conveys normal police officers between their duties and also enables them to respond to emergencies.
  • Response Car: Higher specification, capable of faster speeds and fitted with audible and visual warnings.
  • Traffic Car: Designed for the job of enforcing traffic laws and capable of catching most other vehicles on the road.
  • Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV): For a variety of reasons off-road needs, applications where a lot of equipment must be carried or K-9 units.

Fun Facts:

  • Police officers actually used motorcycles far before they used patrol cars
  • The switch to police cars was motivated primary by the fact that criminals were using cars
  • North American police cars were once noted for being painted b
  • Edmonton, Alberta had a “taxicab yellow” paint scheme for their police cars
  • The Azusa Police Department in California owned the first Chevrolet Camaro police car ever built
  • The Belchertown Police Department in Masssachusetts uses a double decker bus as its town police car. 
  • The police department in South Hampton, New Hampshire once owned a very rare Audi 4000 police car.
  • The Tulsa Police Department in Oklahoma owns a Cadillac Escalade that reads on the back “This used to be a drug dealer’s car. Now it’s ours.”
  • In the late 1980s through the late 1990s, the Pittsburgh Department of Police in Pennsylvania had one of the weirdest police fleets in North America, with the utilization of various General Motors vehicles not usually meant to be used for police work.