Many people ask about our police cars. What size engine does it have? Does it have special equipment? Etc. To illustrate what is inside a Smithfield Police cruiser, we will profile the newest additions to our fleet. In April of 2007 the Department ordered six new vehicles. We have taken delivery of a 2007 model Ford Expedition as an addition to the fleet. The remaining five vehicles ordered are four Crown Victoria Police Interceptors to replacing aging patrol vehicles and one Ford Fusion to replace an unmarked, Administrative vehicle. In 2006 the Ford Motor Company discontinued making the Taurus, which had been our primary Administrative vehicle for years. This year we purchased the Fusion in lieu of the Taurus.
What are some of the standard features of a “police” vehicle? The typical new cruiser is a 2007 model Ford Crown Victoria, 4-door, sedan. The vehicles come standard from the Ford Motor Company to police with a 4.6 liter, SOHC, EFI, V-8 engine. It has a heavy-duty alternator to handle the added load of emergency equipment installed by this agency. The vehicles also employ a heavy duty cooling system for water, oil and transmission fluids for extreme driving conditions. In 2003, Ford made some major improvements to the front suspension. They have straightened the front frame rails forcing the front “driving gear” outward. To compensate for the change, Ford was forced to change the offset of the wheels. They have also abandoned the old “worm-gear-type” steering box system for a more modern power assisted rack and pinion system. This system provides the operator with better “road-feel” and handling. The lower frame assembly is manufactured completely of aluminum replacing the old “stamped-steel” sub frame and A-frames. This feature lightens the vehicle curb weight substantially.
What does the typical “marked cruiser” look like? What kind of equipment does it have? Inside features and amenities include cloth bucket seats in front with vinyl bench in the rear for ease of maintenance. Additional factory amenities include tilt steering, AM/FM stereo radio, interval wipers, as well as power windows, mirrors and door locks. This year, Ford has provided power lumbar support systems in the front seats. Agency installed equipment includes a steel partition to separate police from “passengers”, a shotgun and mount on the partition, and additional lighting to assist with reading and report writing in the field. In addition we add a console between the front seats which houses a variety of equipment; a two-way radio, and a multi-function control panel for emergency lighting, public address system and sirens. The console itself is an aftermarket unit designed specifically for this application.
On the outside, the cruisers feature custom graphics and lettering designed by the Smithfield Police Department and applied by a local company. The Department’s logo, or “shoulder patch design” is incorporated into the exterior design.
What types of emergency lighting do you use? In past years the Department had chosen the CODE-3, MX-7000 light bar for its patrol vehicles. New technologies recently developed have proven themselves in the field of patrol vehicle lighting though. As of this year, 2007, the Department has been installing CODE-3 LED-X, 2100 light bars in place of the MX-7000. All of the Department’s marked patrol units have been retrofitted with the new lighting. The LED, or Light-Emitting-Diode, technology is unsurpassed in the business. They provide substantially more daytime visibility and safety to officers and motorists. They are, however, much more costly. We also add alternating red and blue LED lights on the rear deck next to the third brake light and alternating, “wig-wag” headlamps. New in 2005 and continuing on the 2006 and 2007 models, we added a six-outlet strobe light kit. All four corners of the vehicle and the back-up lights now double as emergency flashers. The vehicles come standard with an “A”-pillar-mounted, manually operated spotlight on the driver’s side.
Is there any other special equipment one might find in a patrol car? The answer certainly is YES. Inside the trunk there are several other specialized items to assist officers in everyday tasks. In the trunk you’ll find a water-rescue device, commonly known as a “throw-bag” with rope. Lakes and streams cover much of the Town. Also, we carry first aid kits, yellow “caution” tape for crime scenes, a fire extinguisher, vehicle lock-out tools, latex surgical gloves, an animal snare, a measuring device for traffic accidents and crime scenes, chalk, and road flares.
In 1999 we added a device called STOP-STICKS to our equipment line-up. They are tire-deflating devices used to safely end vehicle pursuits. Each unit has a set mounted inside the trunk lid.
In 1997, as part of a pilot project to determine the feasibility of equipping every patrol unit with a laptop computer, the Department installed three Compaq 1130-T Pentium 120 notebook computers into new patrol vehicles. Although the computers worked well, they just were not rugged enough for the harsh environment in which they were installed, a police car.
In late 2002 the Department met with several companies in an attempt to find a more suitable computer for our application. We settled on the X-Plore Technologies GenesysII mobile data terminal (MDT). The system is comprised of many components. The “tablet”, as it is called, houses the main computer and is portable. It may be operated mounted inside the vehicle or as a tablet in the field. The tablet is vehicle-mounted to “Lund” brand equipment brackets, which hold the X-Plore X-pander. The X-pander is the “tie-point” for the wiring, communication cables, speakers and keyboard. The tablet connects to the X-pander with a 200-pin connector. Once the tablet is secured to the X-pander, officers have access to the Department’s report-writing software and the statewide NCIC and local files through a wireless modem. In 2006, the Department received two Federal earmarks to assist in the update of the mobile units. Again we chose a unit made by X-Plore technologies for its capabilities and “ruggedness”. The Department purchased new X-Plore, model IX104C3 tablet computers. The new technology offers more features and extended memory. Access to data by field officers is much quicker.
What does all this mean? Officers have immediate access to information that once took several minutes to obtain through a police dispatcher. Officers can remain in the field to complete reports that once took them off the road and out of service, at times, for several hours. All of this increases levels of service to the citizens of the Town by making officers more readily available and increases levels of officer safety by allowing officers to know whom it is that they are stopping before they even confront vehicle operators.
How does a New England police agency battle bad weather? The answer: Four-Wheel-Drive. In 1997, we added the Ford Expedition to our fleet. It is a full-sized four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle that has proven itself in bad weather conditions. It too, has a large, 5.4-liter, V-8 engine. It has electronic “shift-on-the-fly” four-wheel-drive access that allows the operator to change drive options based on weather conditions. We have chosen to mark the units in the same way as our patrol cars. We did, however, due to the size of the vehicle, opt for lighting other than the traditional “light-bar”. The Expedition was the beginning of the Department’s use of strobe lights. We outfitted the trucks with the corner-mounted strobe lights. Seeing how effective they were, we chose to outfit the entire fleet with the strobe units. This project was just recently completed. Last year we added a fourth Ford Expedition. The Department is growing and so too should the fleet. This year we replaced last of the aging 1998’s. Although no longer in service to the Department, it will continue to serve the Town in the capacity of a vehicle assigned to the Building Official’s office.
Police agencies have many options now relating to vehicle choices. For years, the Smithfield Police Department has been running Ford products; the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, the Expedition, the Taurus and even the Ranger and F-series pick-ups for our Animal Control and services divisions. We are very interested in the new Dodge products and are actively seeking input from other agencies and individuals who employ them in fleet services. We ask if you or your agency has any input on the Dodge Magnum, Charger or Durango, that you e-mail me, Captain Robert J. Beaudry, Fleet Operations Officer at email@example.com. We are also looking into the possibility of adding motorcycles to our fleet. If you have any input on this matter, please send it along.
The Department also has a Mobile Command Center that you can read more about here.