The evolution of the squad car

There are so many important factors to consider when thinking about a patrol vehicle for your agency

Unit #155, my first patrol car, a 1988 Ford Crown Vic that had a vinyl bench seat, entirely too loose steering, and floated up and down over bumps in the road like the SS Minnow being tossed at sea. If not for a seat belt you’d slide all the way to the passenger side when you rounded a corner and I’m halfway deaf 20 years later because of the siren box mounted on the roof of the car.

Next came along the first generation of “Shamu” — the Chevrolet caprice with the fender skirts that made it extremely difficult to change a flat tire. Although it was a complete adrenaline rush to watch the digital speedometer climb to 150, the dang thing was as heavy as a tank.

Now, from Crown Vics to Dodge Chargers to Tahoes, there are many different types of vehicles being used in police work, and on the patrol beat. Our agency is anxiously anticipating our first fleet order of the new Ford Police interceptor sport utility vehicles. These vehicles are 300-horsepower, all-wheel-drive monsters that handle like a car, yet offer more room and a lot more safety features than that 1988 boat.

Whatever make and/or model you drive, it’s apparent, and long overdue, the new features and modern technology police cars are beginning to get. Carbon motors, if they can pull it off, will be the first factory built exclusive patrol vehicle ever made. And to ensure that criminals don’t get their hands on one at an auction, they are planning on buying the used ones back from the agency after their patrol lifespan has come to an end.

There are so many important factors to consider when considering a patrol vehicle for your agency. Speed is always a concern, but the options and safety of today’s squad car has made monumental leaps in the past decade. Air bags, handling, fuel economy, improved braking and comfort, added with the top of the line equipment, from spot light flir units to biometric scanners, today’s law enforcement is definitely “keeping up with the Jones’s” in technology and safety.

If you’re still driving the same type of vehicle on patrol as when you first started, snap a picture of yourself standing next to it. And snap a pic each time through the coming years when you switch make and models. In 20 years or so you’ll be able to share those photos with the “new guys” or perhaps your grandchildren, they may want to know what it was like to drive a non-electric patrol car.

What was your first patrol car? A Dodge Fury? Ford LTD? Let’s here your stories, good, bad or funny…Just know that you’re about to date yourself to the reading audience, you old honey badger...

About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 23-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics, and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Justice Leadership and Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards, including the Medal of Valor. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.

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