The history of law enforcement vehicles
February 28, 2012
These were electric cars that could only reach a top speed of 16 miles an hour and needed to have their batteries recharged every 30 miles. Needless to say, they weren’t very efficient. Nevertheless, they began the era of motorized law enforcement vehicles in the U.S.
In the 1920s, New York City began the widespread use of law enforcement vehicles to patrol the city’s streets. In the 1930’s, Ford became the manufacturer of choice for what were known as squad cars. In cities, most officers still patrolled city streets on foot, so cars were mainly used to transport several officers to and from crime scenes. The Ford Model B with a flathead V8 engine was introduced in 1932. It quickly became the most widespread of law enforcement vehicles because of its high speed capacity, durability and reliability. It was also the first car with a V8 engine that was marketed throughout the U.S. and Canada. Ford remained the major supplier of law enforcement vehicles in the U.S.until1968.
Beginning in the 1940s, other car makers began to focus on capturing some of the market for law enforcement vehicles by offering police special modifications to their cars, like special suspensions and more powerful engines. In the 1960s, Plymouth began to take over the police market and by 1969 they were the chief supplier of vehicles for law enforcement agencies.
Most law enforcement vehicles are mid-sized or larger sedans that have been modified to meet police specifications. Modifications include high performance motors, heavy duty suspensions, special braking systems, light bars, sirens and high performance alternators. In the 1960s, the most common police vehicles were the Plymouth Satellite, the Ford Torino and the AMC Matador.
In the 1970s, the Ford LTD and the Chevrolet Caprice became the favorite law enforcement vehicles. After that, the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor became the most common patrol car used by law enforcement and was used by 75% to 85% of police units. The Crown Victoria was discontinued in 2011 and has been replaced by the Taurus as favored police vehicle.
Today’s law enforcement vehicles are much more varied than the sedans that police formerly used. They now include SUVs, vans and even armored vehicles. State Troopers who patrol the highways use specialty high-speed pursuit vehicles that can reach speeds of over 110 miles per hour.