Insider Secrets About Police Cars That They'd Rather You Didn't Know
As law-abiding citizens, the closest way most of us will get to experiencing the inside of a police car is watching a scene from a movie or television show — and those don't tell us much. We see these vehicles everywhere, yet we know little about their secret gadgets and capabilities. They’re forbidden secret mystery boxes on wheels.
But now you don't have to commit a crime to find out what’s inside. Here are insider secrets the cops would rather you didn't know.
The GPS Tracker Gun
It sounds like a device straight out of a James Bond movie: The driver flicks a switch, and a front bumper-mounted housing shoots a device that attaches itself to the rear of the car it’s pursuing. That device is a remote GPS unit that can track a perp via a computer.
Decoy police cars are mostly used as deterrents for traffic violations like speeding. They can either be real police cars with no one inside, out-of-service cars or sometimes just signs or rigs that give the illusion of being real police cars.
Italian Police Lamborghinis
Well, not all Italian police drive Lamborghinis. But there are a few of them in service donated by the manufacturer in Italy, England and South Africa. These unbelievably cool vehicles can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.
If you were a police officer, imagine the kinds of dicey situations that you might have to put yourself in the middle of. One preemptive measure for the transport of suspects in the back of the police car is a hard, non-upholstered seat. It's not to purposely make the ride uncomfortable, though.
Advanced Surveillance Technology
Advanced technology in police cars is the norm rather than the exception these days. Most cars use a surveillance system called DDACTS, which stands for Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety.
The Secret Language of Sirens
Police sirens have markedly different sounds for different situations. If you live in the city, you might hear the "piercer" the most, which is intentionally designed to have a piercing sound for high-traffic and congested areas. Another one is called the "wailer," which is for police situations on highways or freeways.
Once the realm of science fiction, surveillance drones are part of regular everyday life now. Some police cars come equipped with specialized drones, which are perfectly suited to monitor an emergency situation before first responders can get there. They're also great for finding suspects fleeing (or hiding from) the law.
The Rumbler Siren
The rumbler is a recent addition to the sounds a police siren can make. It's a specialized siren with low-frequency sounds. In modern times, drivers may not hear the police siren because of their own loud car speakers, a conversation on a headset or loud screaming or talking from within the car. Or maybe all that at once!
Teddy Bears as Standard Issue
Too often in the line of police work, police officers encounter traumatic situations in which a child is involved, such as in an auto accident. The Dutch police, as part of the standard-issue accessories in their cars, carry teddy bears to help soothe children and get them through tough situations. It's also great for distracting them with something else if they need medical treatment on the spot.
Facial Recognition Technology
If you’re worried that facial recognition technology will one day come to police departments everywhere...sorry. It's too late for that. Facial recognition for law-enforcement use is already here, and some cops have these devices in their cars.
In an ordinary car, an alternator provides power to the dashboard, the instruments, all the lights and the speakers. It also helps turn the engine over when you start the vehicle. A police car, on the other hand, is no ordinary car.
LAPD Electric Police Cars
More and more vehicles on the road are electric or hybrid, and certain police department fleets are starting to accept that trend. Believe it or not, the very first police vehicle was all-electric, and now it looks like history is coming full-circle.
Outrunning the Chevy Caprice
Most police cars are built for speed, and the Chevy Caprice police car is the fastest in North America. According to a report in USA Today, the Chevy Caprice tops out at 155 miles per hour. That's more than twice most speed limits.
Police are often the first responders in an emergency situation, and as such, police require some medical training and carry medical equipment as part of the standard issue in their cars. Most cars are equipped with automatic external defibrillators, or AEDs.
Hours Instead of Miles
As one famous Indiana Jones quote goes, "It's not the age, it's the mileage." However, it's a bit flipped with police cars. It's not just the mileage that's an accurate gauge of wear and tear. It's also hours of service.
Police Dogs’ Special Cars
K-9 units come with their own police handlers who must undergo rigorous specialized training. They also require special cars to accommodate each pooch's needs. The dogs have to be kept cool while the cars idle, so the AC units must be reliable and work at different temperatures.
And you thought Italians drove fast. Some units in Dubai drive Bugatti Veyrons, which have a brain-melting speed of up to 250 miles per hour. This holds the world record for the fastest police car. That's faster than what a passenger jet requires to take off!
The PIT Bumper
Ever notice the cage-style bumpers on the fronts of police cars? That's called the PIT bumper, an acronym for "pursuit intervention technique." They’re designed to end a high-speed vehicle chase by slightly bumping the rear of the pursued car, thus altering its trajectory and sending it into a spin.
The Crown Victoria’s Bulletproof Doors
The Crown Victoria was one of the most popular police cars of all time, partially because it was so reliable and easy to maintain. For about a five-year period in the ‘90s, the Ford Crown Victoria dominated 80% of the police-car market in the United States.
There are far more unmarked cars in circulation than you might think. Most drivers hate the notion of an unmarked cop car — they seem sneaky and underhanded and are used mostly for minor traffic violations. What most drivers don't know is that you can recognize an unmarked car if you're paying attention.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition
Ever wonder how you might have been caught with an outdated registration by a cop who could barely see your license plate number? Chances are they had help from a computer. Most cop cars now have automatic number plate recognition, which uses a scanning camera on the police car to constantly surveil.
Ever wonder what car German police use to patrol the Autobahn? The answer is the Mercedes-Benz Brabus Rocket. Though it's not quite as fast as the Dubai Police Bugatti, it comes pretty close, topping out at a whopping 228 miles per hour. As mentioned before, that's flying speed!
Assault Weapon-proof Doors
Yes, it’s true; some police cars do have bulletproof doors. But no matter what you see on television or in the movies, most of those doors can only withstand small-arms fire that uses low-caliber bullets. At least, that was true up until a few years ago.
Fingerprint Access for Computers
As anyone might guess, a police computer is loaded with sensitive information that would be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. Though it’s unlikely that a criminal might get access to a cop's computer inside their car, the computer is still safeguarded for that risk.
Most Police Cars Are Virtually Race Cars
It's just logical — if you want to catch bad guys, you have to drive a fast car. For that reason, police car fleets have some of the fastest street-legal cars in the whole country, with respectable horsepower to boot.
Sorry, No Joyriding
Almost all police cars have what's called a "runlock" system. This allows a car to idle at low power while the keys are out of the ignition. If somehow, against all odds, a suspect or a passerby jumps into the car and tries to take off, the car won't let them without the keys.
New Technology May Replace Sirens
An alternative to sirens may soon be available. Some recent developments in siren technology are already in use, like the rumbler siren. Another technique that may soon become available is a short-range FM transmitter that can broadcast specifically to your car.
Police Car Auctions
Did you know you can buy used police cars at auctions for insanely low prices? We're talking three figures low, maybe even $500 or under. Now, some of these cars are from the ‘90s and have a lot of wear and tear.
Mobile Debt Collectors
One uncomfortable side-effect of data being tied together in the information age is that it's almost impossible to hide from minor infractions. Even "oopsies" like uncollected debt can turn up attached to your name and license plate number.
Personal Cars for Cops?
In some areas, police officers are allowed to use their police cars as their own personal vehicles. They're even subsidized to cover costs, so long as they bring the cars in regularly to get serviced. The police department provides all the rest of the equipment.