10-43: Be Advised...
with Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief
Cops talk about the new Ford Interceptors (pt. 2)
Ford recently invited four police officers from around the U.S. and Canada to drive the new Interceptors — PoliceOne caught up with those cops to get their take on the new vehicles for a new three-part series of articles
At the Ford Arizona Proving Ground, four law enforcers — Officer Terry Bykerk of the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Police Department, Officer Don Spence of the Dundee, (Mich.) Police Department, Lieutenant John Leas of the San Diego (Calif.) Police Department, and Staff Sergeant Chris Whaley, Ontario (Canada) Provincial Police — put the Ford Police Interceptors to the test. They also tested vehicles from several competitors in a wide variety of settings. Two weeks ago I posted part one in this three-part series. If you missed it, you may want to check that out now. What follows is my discussion with Officers Bykerk and Spence, Lieutenant Leas, and Staff Sergeant Whaley about the officer safety features in the new Ford Police Interceptors, as well as their impressions of the vehicles’ officer cockpits and prisoner spaces.
PoliceOne: What stood out as the most important upgrades or added features from an officer safety standpoint?
Officer Terry Bykerk, Grand Rapids (Mich.) PD: The increase in available speed and agility have been combined with a vast upgrade in the traction control system, braking capability, additional air bags and steering wheel controls. These upgrades will eliminate and compensate for most driving errors and increase officer safety.
Officer Don Spence, Dundee, (Mich.) PD: You know there are always an endless amount of aftermarket upgrades that come out with any kind of equipment that we use, but I have to really give Ford credit for having the option for the ballistic doors and reinforced seats. These are things that they thought of and implemented into the design of the vehicles from the get go so that a fleet doesn’t have to deal with all the little fabrications that go along with upgrading equipment.
Lieutenant John Leas, San Diego (Calif.) PD: I especially liked the tight suspension, crisp steering and strong brakes as well as the AdvanceTrac feature with Roll Stability Control (which was turned off during our testing sessions so we could test the real car). With side impact airbags, the ability to have Level III ballistic door panels in a vehicle that will withstand 75 MPH rear impacts demonstrates Ford’s commitment to officer safety.
Staff Sergeant Chris Whaley, Ontario (Canada) Provincial Police: Reducing officer involved collisions is my area of expertise so this was a particularly important issue for me. I believe that Ford has made a significant leap forward in officer safety by electing to provide an all-wheel drive vehicle with stability and traction control. This technology will reduce collisions caused by officers losing control as a result of an over-steer situation. I believe this technology will correct the mistakes made by weak drivers. I also believe that adding programmable controls on the steering wheel which will allow the officer to operate police equipment like lights, siren, police radio, etc, helps manage distraction within the vehicle. Those things will help prevent a collision but if the officer is involved in a crash, the uni-body construction, air bag system and 75 mph rear crash protection system helps ensure the officer has a chance of survival. If there is life space left in the occupant compartment after any crash and the officer is wearing the seat belt, they have a chance of surviving.
PoliceOne: What did you think of the cockpit? What did you think about the design of the right seat? The rear seats?
Officer Bykerk: The Interceptor includes steering wheel controls for lights, siren and radios which is long overdue. This increases vehicle control and occupant safety by keeping your hands on the steering wheel. These controls have proven results and are why they have become standard on most civilian vehicles. The Interceptor seat was noticeably more comfortable and an unbelievable improvement. Ford has gone with a wider “police specific” seat that includes a cutout through the entire lower back and designed for the comfort of all sizes of officers. I felt no lower back pressure from the duty belt. Interceptors’ access and ease of seat belt was far superior to other police vehicles.
Ford seat belts are still in the seat as currently in the Crown Victoria, but they have adjusted the “foam” around it to improve the functionality. I was able to buckle and unbuckle it without twisting or turning. The Ford has a steering column shifter and the front interior room is smaller than our Crown Victoria. There does not appear to be any issue with using our current equipment as there is nine inches between the front seat for equipment mounting and has a specific mounting area for radars or ticket printers on the dash. The back seat offers an improvement in accessibility due to the rear doors opening wider. The amount of room is sufficient for prisoner transportation.
Officer Spence: I really enjoyed the cockpit of both of these vehicles. They are very comfortable, even with a duty belt and full gear on. I would not say that the feel is a snug ride more than it is a secure ride. You are not sliding all over the seats like in my current Crown Vic, but I am not crammed in either and I am not the smallest of guys. The way that you are positioned while driving the Interceptor is very ergonomically pleasing. All of the controls seemed to be very user friendly and I liked that the dash was slightly sloped toward the front of the vehicle. I believe that will provide more room for the computers and other electrical components that we outfit them with. I especially liked that there are now controls designated for the lights, horns, sirens or whatever you wish to designate on the steering wheel — a simple feature, but my favorite.
Lieutenant Leas: I liked the cockpits of all the Interceptors. In the sedan, I had some difficulty clearing the headliner between the A and B pillars. In the utility, there was plenty of headroom and easy ingress and egress. The programmable switches on the steering wheel for emergency equipment activation is an outstanding idea — one that’s long overdue in the police vehicle industry. Another plus was the seat cutout designs to allow for the officer’s duty belt to rest comfortably without undue pressure on the back. I like that the rear seats were recessed further back allowing for easier ingress and egress and leg room for prisoners. The doors swing wider as well, a major improvement.
Staff Sergeant Whaley: The sedan looks a little small when you first see it and that was a concern but when you get in, you see how well the interior is engineered and there is actually adequate space for two officers. The seats were comfortable and wider than many others I’ve been in. The fact that Ford engineered this seat to accommodate a duty belt shows they really listened to what the police community was telling them. I didn’t sit in the back — and don’t plan to — I did make note of the fact that the rear doors have been engineered to open to a wider angle than other police vehicles which certainly makes transporting a prisoner easier.
PoliceOne: Well, that’s it for now. Check back in two weeks for the third and final part of this series. In the meantime, stay safe.