Ford recently invited four police officers from around the U.S. and Canada to the Ford Arizona Proving Ground where they were able to test the new For Police Interceptors — as well as vehicles from several competitors — in a variety of settings. Having learned about this event, I connected with my contact with Ford’s PR team and eventually caught up with those cops — 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 — to get more of their thoughts on these new vehicles for a three-part series of articles here on PoliceOne.
In part one, we began with the initial impressions of Officers Bykerk and Spence, Lieutenant Leas, and Staff Sergeant Whaley, Ontario (Canada) Provincial Police on handling and performance. In part two, we talked a little about officer safety and comfort in the cockpit. Here, we’re going to bat around the notion of outfitting an entire PD with the new Interceptor, and open the floor to whatever else they had wanted to add to the discussion.
PoliceOne: When you consider the prospect of outfitting an entire PD with the new Interceptor, what comes to mind?
Officer Terry Bykerk, Grand Rapids (Mich.) PD: If we were to transition to the AWD Ford Sedan or SUV from a RWD vehicle would we be able to do so without any training? I am sure that we will be paying more for the Interceptor than what we currently do for the Crown Victoria. Knowing this I also know that the dollars to train all our personnel in the transition would not be completed. After spending 2 days driving the Interceptor in various courses I feel very confident that the transition could occur safely with no training. The Ford Sedan and SUV are built on the same platform. This means that if you drive one you can drive the other without any training or acclimation. The acceleration, braking and handling dynamics are nearly identical and offer fleet flexibility issues not currently available.
Officer Spence: I think that it will be a very easy and potentially seamless transition. The vehicles are very easy to drive which will make for limited training in order to get familiar with them. Both the sedan and the SUV have the ability to provide any level of driver with increased confidence behind the wheel. The amount of input that a driver has to give the car is multiplied many times over in the amount of output that the vehicle gives the driver. I think that outfitting an entire PD would be a no lose situation. These are vehicles that run good, go through just about any kind of conditions that we would use them in, are fun and comfortable to drive and are extremely officer friendly and safe.
Lieutenant John Leas, San Diego (Calif.) PD: Versatility! The PIs run off the same platform (sedan and utility) which means parts are interchangeable. Also, both versions do not require additional EVOC training. Drivers can get behind the wheel of either style (sedan or SUV) and drive safely and proficiently. No specialized training is necessary — both handle almost identically and driving controls are consistent between vehicles. In addition, police collisions will be reduced significantly by the improved handling and safety features built into the new Police Interceptors. This will be a major cost savings both in vehicle repair expenses as well as a reduction in workers compensation for on the job injuries and deaths.
Staff Sergeant Chris Whaley, Ontario (Canada) Provincial Police: Well, our agency has roughly 1300 front line cars and we drive 166 million kilometers a year. Switching to a V6 will provide a significant — probably in the millions of dollars — savings in fuel costs. I fully anticipate that our officer involved collisions will go down and if I was able to pick which vehicle I would drive, it would be the Ford PI SUV. It has a higher command seating position, it’s more versatile, and performs as well as any sedan I’ve driven.
PoliceOne: What have I not asked you that you think would be useful to officers, fleet managers, or administrators?
Officer Bykerk: The financial savings on snow tires, mounting and wear and tear on transmissions need to be considered when talking about the AWD versus RWD. Ford’s two different styles of vehicles offer flexibility in many areas that leads to financial savings, increase in operator safety, and the ability to use all the same equipment. Ford Interceptor comes standard with 220 amp alternator versus 170 amp which is a huge topic for equipment installers.
Lieutenant Leas: My recommendation is make sure you drive all the major manufacturer’s vehicles and compare for yourself, side by side, if possible. The Ford Police Interceptors have clearly proven to me that they are purpose built for law enforcement. These are not civilian production vehicles modified and rebadged as a police pursuit vehicle — they are the real deal. Drive them before you buy. My personal recommendation: Go with the 3.7 AWD P Utility as the best all around vehicle.
Staff Sergeant Whaley: I was very impressed with these new Ford vehicles. It’s important to note that I drove the Charger and the Tahoe as well on the same track under the same conditions. I have not received any compensation from Ford to provide my opinions. I am not involved in our agency’s purchasing process and I do not endorse any specific manufacturer. I honestly believe this is one of the greatest advancements in policing during my career. I think that this will encourage other manufacturers to look closely at features like all-wheel drive, better crash protection and innovative technology that improves safety for the officers. Police officers are more likely to die in a vehicle collision than any other means. We are involved in collisions far more frequently than the general public. That’s well documented. If manufacturers are finding new ways to save the lives of officers, it doesn’t matter to me what you drive.
So there you have it — the personal opinions of four law enforcers who have driven these vehicles in a maximum stress testing environment. If you’ve done similar testing on any police vehicles, I want to hear from you. If you’d like to write a guest column or talk with me for one of my own upcoming columns, send me an email. In the meantime, stay safe.