The car has a big, black snout, flowing through a compact midbody, low-slung windows and a squared-off tail. We see them everywhere, zooming to and fro, responding to emergencies.
What goes into outfitting the police cars we see flashing by?
They don’t have bulletproof glass or eject buttons, but a lot separates an everyday patrol car from cars civilians drive every day.
“This is your office. You put what you need in it,” said Dan Lane, a public information officer for the Gaithersburg City Police. He allowed The Gazette to interrogate him and rummage through his car, a 2012 Dodge Charger with a V-6 engine.
“It has a much faster giddyup with a V-6 than with a V-8,” he said.
Officers typically carry first-aid kits, flares, a fire extinguisher, riot gear, extra gloves and a traffic vest in their cars, he said.
For Lane, the extra special somethings in his car include peanuts, some bottled water, extra gloves, some Romeo and Juliet cigars for when he’s off-duty — NOT to be smoked in the car, he said — and the stuffed teddy bear with a yellow shirt that says “Masons Care,” belted into the back of his cruiser with a bungee cord.
Masons donate teddy bears that police departments give to children who are victims of traumatic incidents, Lane said. His father gave him one of the bears when he was hired by the police force, he said.
Montgomery County Police has about 900 marked patrol cars, according to fleet manager Sgt. Bob Ravida.
The county’s fleet consists of Crown Victorias, along with Dodge Chargers, Chevy Impalas and Caprices, Ford Interceptors, and for officers with K-9s, Chevy Tahoes and Suburbans.
Why buy models from different manufacturers?
Manufacturer recalls, Ravida explained.
“We can’t take the whole fleet off the road. ... It helps in a fleet of our size to have some diversity, so our operations aren’t impacted if we have a major safety recall,” he said.
Although the police cars resemble their civilian counterparts — the Interceptors look like Ford Tauruses, he said — the bones, innards and nervous system of the car are vastly different.
The Interceptor, for example, has a 3.7-liter engine. “That’s not even available as a citizen,” Ravida said.
Engineers program the engine to respond differently, to “pursuit-style” driving situations, which enables the car to accelerate harder and deal with sharp cornering.
Cruisers have larger brakes and steel wheels, which means the car can better handle curb strikes, helping the car avoid wheel and suspension damage, he said.
“If we used aluminum [for wheels] like in most cars, we’d be replacing them all day,” he said.
Some cruisers also have a brace welded into the rear of the car, allowing the vehicle to withstand being struck by another car going 75 mph while it’s parked.
Most cruisers can go more than 150 mph, Ravida said, but he asks for an automatic speed cutoff from manufacturers at about 130 mph, he said.
“To protect our officers, we don’t let them go over 130,” he said.
Cpl. Kevin Marston, a mobile systems manager for MCPD, handles some of the specialized electronics that go into the squad cars.
There’s a mobile video system with forward and rear facing cameras, along with a camera box in the trunk of the cruisers.
And there’s E-tickets, a scanner and a printer, which allows officers to issue tickets during traffic stops.
Ravida said he adds emergency equipment to a patrol car, like the many light bars, sirens, siren boxes, radios and decals. There is a special center console, a mobile video system, a rugged Panasonic Toughbook laptop, electronic ticketing and other items.
The total price tag for those items runs around $26,000 to $27,000, he said.
“Honestly, we spend a little more on the equipment than we do on the car, when you include labor,” Ravida said.
Fresh from manufacturers — before lights and all their other parts are added — the Ford Interceptor sedans run about $24,726, he said.
Other prices are $27,216 for Ford Interceptor utility vehicles, $23,644 for Chargers, $26,697 for Chevy Tahoes and $26,911 for Chevy Caprices.
The most expensive of the lot is the Suburban, which runs about $36,380, he said.
“If you tried to buy one as civilian, you couldn’t buy it for less than $46,000,” Ravida said.