Police vehicles in the United States and Canada

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A Communications Division Command Post vehicle in service with the New York City Police Department.

Police vehicles in the United States and Canada are made by several manufacturers and are available in three broad vehicle types:


The first police car was a wagon run by electricity fielded on the streets of Akron, Ohio in 1899.[1] Since the 1920s, the New York City Police Department has employed a fleet of Radio Motor Patrol vehicles to aid in its fight against crime in the city.

Ford's introduction of the Ford flathead V-8 in its Model B in 1932, the first low-priced, mass-marketed car with a V8 engine, gave it brand loyalty that allowed it to capture the police car market until 1968. In the 1940s and 1950s the Big Three began to offer specialized police packages with severe duty parts. Foremost among these was the Ford package of 1950, which utilized the larger and more powerful Mercury engine in the smaller, lighter Ford. This ended the practice of some state police of buying larger, more powerful, higher priced models including Buicks, Hudsons, and Chryslers. In 1969, Plymouth took first place in the police market, with Chrysler Corporation's 440 cu. in. V8s, Torqueflite transmissions, and torsion bar suspensions giving them a compelling advantage. Chrysler held their lead until the 1970s energy crisis drove buyers to smaller cars and Chrysler discontinued their rear-drive platform after the 1989 model year.[2]

In the United States and Canada, police departments historically have used standard-size, low-price line sedans since the days of the Ford Model A. Many police departments switched to intermediates, such as the Plymouth Satellite, Ford Torino and AMC Matador, in the 1960s and 1970s. Some state highway patrols (such as California and Missouri) adopted pony cars such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and AMC Javelin as high-speed pursuit vehicles. The Ford LTD, Plymouth Gran Fury and Chevrolet Caprice were re-adopted as standard when the models were downsized in the late 1970s. Since the termination of the Chevrolet Caprice product, most police departments currently use the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor as the standard patrol car. New North American Crown Victoria Police Interceptors are optionally equipped with a fire suppression system to combat the threat to highway patrol vehicles of rear-end impacts while parked on the side of highways. In September 2011, however, the Crown Victoria was discontinued, in favour of the 6th-generation Taurus. This has helped Dodge reclaim leadership in the market with the Charger.

Non-Crown Victoria police vehicles may be bought to diversify a police department's fleet, so that less disruption occurs should a recall occur.[3]

While some departments have adopted SUVs and front-wheel drive sedans (mainly the Chevrolet Impala), the rear-wheel-drive V8 configuration is favored for being consistent with pursuit driver training as well as for better reliability. Trials with front-wheel-drive vehicles like the Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala have shown problems with the cost of maintenance.[4][5][6] In 1994, for example, a Ford spokeswoman noted that "It is certainly true that any front-wheel-drive car would be more expensive and difficult to maintain if you subjected it to the kind of hard use they get in police departments."[7] General Motors and Chrysler provide other types (front-wheel drive, smaller engine) police vehicles as well, and a few jurisdictions (primarily in Canada) use these vehicles. The Chevrolet Tahoe PPV version along with the Ford [Explorer] Police Interceptor Utility are both pursuit-rated SUV's. Many jurisdictions use the Chevrolet Impala, which in its current configuration is a front-wheel-drive V6. The Dodge Charger R/T is the most likely challenger to the Crown Victoria as a RWD V8 patrol car,[8] though the Washington State Patrol and the North Carolina Highway Patrol are using the vehicle initially as an unmarked patrol car. The Charger has shown great promise as a police car, being faster and more fuel efficient than the commonly used Ford Crown Victoria.[3] Some complaints about the Charger though are its limited rear visibility and smaller trunk than the Crown Victoria. There were, in the 2005 and 2006 model years, significant problems with the braking systems, which has since been revised by Dodge. At the end of 2006, multiple Dodge Chargers have been put into the NYPD fleet for citywide testing. In the summer of 2006, the Georgia State Patrol announced that it would begin using the Charger R/T for high speed chases on Interstate highways due to its additional power and speed, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol switched to the model early as well. As of 2007, the Alameda County (California) Sheriff's Office has plans as well to upgrade to the Charger. Many police agencies in the metropolitan Detroit area have also adopted a fleet that includes a number of the Dodge. Dodge only rates their 6-cylinder and Hemi-engined versions as "pursuit capable" (when ordered as a police package). The R/T version is not available in a police package. Other agencies, including the California Highway Patrol and Chicago Police Department, are replacing their older cruisers with the Ford Police Interceptor Utility [Explorer] variant due to its large cargo and equipment-carrying ability, as well as its optional AWD system. In 2013, according to statistics compiled by R.L. Polk, the FPI-U (Explorer) became the most popular PPV in the U.S.[9] The standard Ford Taurus-based PI can also be equipped with AWD.

Markings and appearance[edit]

An Akron, Ohio police cruiser

North American police cars were once noted for being painted black and white, with the car doors and roof painted white, while the trunk, hood, front fenders and rear quarter panels were painted black. The fleet vehicles that were used typically came painted in a single color, most commonly white or black, from the factory and were used as such. The contrasting black or white color was added to make the vehicle stand out from civilian vehicles. In 2007, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) began converting its fleet back to a black-and-white scheme after decades of using other colours.

Beginning in the 1970s, police vehicle markings have become increasingly stylistic, with widespread use of computer-graphics and vinyl striping. While black and white designs are still in use in many jurisdictions, cars may range from being all white to completely black. Blues and greens of various hues are also frequently used. Brown, beiges and tans are favored by rural police and sheriff's offices.

Official markings also vary by jurisdiction. The side doors and sometimes the hood of a marked police car usually bear the agency's badge or the city seal, often in reflective finish. Markings such as emergency telephone numbers, generic anti-drug or anti-crime messages, or even website URLs are also common. Some agencies also have identification numbers printed on the roofs of patrol cars for tracking from aircraft, or to distinguish specialized units, such as K-9 units or supervisors.

Currently, in the United States, the paint scheme for each fleet is determined either by the individual agency or by uniform state legislation as in Minnesota.[10] Usually, state laws exist that establish standards for police vehicle markings, and proscribe civilian vehicles from using certain markings or paint schemes as is the case in California.[11]

Today, most fleet markings on patrol vehicles are created from reflective vinyl with an adhesive backing that is applied in a peel-and-stick manner. Colors chosen to represent the departments identity are typically chosen by the individual department, although, as noted above, some states have specific guidelines for color schemes and markings. Vinyl used to produce fleet markings comes in large rolls that are fed through a plotter (cutter) or large-format printer/cutter. The designs are created in specialized computer software and sent to the machines via cable link for production. Once the design is cut into the vinyl, the excess vinyl on the sheet is removed in a process called "weeding". Finally, a paper pre-mask is applied to the top of the vinyl design to allow easy application of multiple letters and shapes at one time.

Models by manufacturer[edit]


New Orleans Police DepartmentPolice vehicle in 2009

General Motors[edit]

2006–2009 Chevrolet Impala SPVM car


2006 Michigan State Police Dodge Charger

American Motors (now part of Chrysler)[edit]


Studebaker Lark 1964 Marshal model in "Pursuit", "Patrol", and "City" versions[19]



Other police vehicles[edit]

2010 Dodge Challenger R/T used by Deputies in Broward County, Florida
The Deputies' mobile "office" in the Challenger

Police departments also use alternative police vehicles.

British Columbia
A "New Edge" Mach 1 Ford Mustang being used as a police car by the Honolulu Police Department.

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Nova Scotia
Prince Edward Island
Puerto Rico
South Carolina


A number of Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs in local police departments have some notable vehicles marked as police cars to promote the program. The DARE cars appear at schools and in parades. Typically these cars are high-end or performance cars that have been seized in a drug raid. They are used to send the message that drug dealers forfeit all their glamorous trappings when they get caught. Cars include the Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang, and Humvee.


Ford ceased production of the ubiquitous Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor in 2011, it was replaced by both the Ford Police Interceptor Sedan & Ford Police Interceptor Utility.[38] On March 12, 2010, a prototype Ford Police Interceptor Sedan based on the sixth generation Taurus's platform was demonstrated at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Ford assured law enforcement agencies that it would be in production when the last Crown Victorias are built in September 2011.[39] The car was also displayed to fleet managers from Canada and the United States at the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) exposition in Detroit in April.[40] Months after the Sedan was unveiled a prototype Ford Police Interceptor Utility based on the fifth generation Ford Explorer was unveiled at Ford's Chicago plant in front of its work force by then VP of U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service Ken Czubay. The production of the Police Interceptor Sedan began in 2012 as a 2013 model along with the Utility counterpart while in 2013 Ford also announced a Special Service Sedan based on the sixth generation Taurus.

Another viable contender, based on the Holden Caprice and badged as a Chevrolet Caprice, was displayed in October 2009 to North American law enforcement agencies, who have been advised that orders will be taken in 2010 for delivery in 2011.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.ci.akron.oh.us/News_Releases/2009/0225.htm
  2. ^ Sanow, Edwin J. (1998-01-16). Ford Police Cars, 1932–1997. p. 7. ISBN 0-7603-0372-X. 
  3. ^ a b Baker, Al (2006-08-21). "A Police Car With Plenty of Muscle". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/crime_and_courts/article_9ee9196a-008b-11df-8a7e-001cc4c03286.html
  5. ^ http://www.mysanantonio.com/business/business_columnists/g_chambers_williams_iii/article/G-Chambers-Williams-III-Caprice-starting-to-1456685.php
  6. ^ http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/article/20110421/NEWS01/104210338
  7. ^ "For city police, a disaster on wheels". The Baltimore Sun. 24 April 1994. p. 1. 
  8. ^ http://www.upi.com/Business_News/2010/08/25/Big-three-chase-police-for-auto-business/UPI-22251282760766/
  9. ^ http://www.freep.com/article/20140324/BUSINESS01/303240049
  10. ^ http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/bin/getpub.php?pubtype=STAT_CHAP_SEC&year=2006&section=169.98
  11. ^ http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d12/vc27605.htm
  12. ^ a b http://members.fortunecity.com/rwcar4q/urban.html
  13. ^ "Highway Patrol troopers say sports cars faster but not better". The Item. 6 June 1992. p. 5A. 
  14. ^ http://www.egmcartech.com/2009/10/05/2011-chevrolet-caprice-police-patrol-vehicle-taking-over-streets-in-2011/
  15. ^ Missouri State Highway Patrol (2006). "History of the Motor Equipment Division" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-05-16. .
  16. ^ 1971 Greenfield Police patrol Ambassador, retrieved on 2008-05-16.
  17. ^ AMC Police Cars retrieved on 2009-10-25.
  18. ^ "The National AMC Police Car Registry" retrieved on 2009-10-25.
  19. ^ Cop Car Dot Com retrieved on 2009-10-25.
  20. ^ Car Dot Com retrieved on 2009-10-25.
  21. ^ Gallery: Edmonton police cars retrieved on 2014-01-20.
  22. ^ http://www4.nau.edu/insidenau/bumps/2008/4_30_08/naupd.htm
  23. ^ http://www.rcmp.ca/bc/lmd/nvan/Contents/tour.html
  24. ^ http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/columnists/mr_roadshow/14074796.htm?source=rss&channel=mercurynews_mr_roadshow
  25. ^ Nicholson, Kieran. "Hummer-dinger of police car joins force". Denver Post. 
  26. ^ http://www.aspenpitkin.com/depts/53/divisions_patrol.cfm
  27. ^ "Vail police switch from Saab to Ford". USA Today. 2003-09-23. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  28. ^ http://starbulletin.com/1999/07/05/news/briefs.html
  29. ^ http://www.madisonrecord.com/news/176168-madison-county-and-pontoon-beach-reap-drug-bust-proceeds
  30. ^ File:ChevroletCapricePPV-01.jpg
  31. ^ http://policecarwebsite.net/fc/copcarpics/iowa1.htm
  32. ^ http://www.z06-corvette.com/police.htm
  33. ^ http://www.corvettecentral.com/gallery/woodward.htm
  34. ^ http://www.drive.subaru.com/Win05_YourTurn.htm
  35. ^ http://www.netcarshow.com/dodge/2006-charger_police_vehicle/
  36. ^ Sullivan, Jennifer (2007-05-04). "Seattle officers' hot cars zero in on hot drivers". The Seattle Times. 
  37. ^ http://goliath.ecnext.com/comsite5/bin/pdinventory.pl?pdlanding=1&referid=2750&item_id=0199-2360667
  38. ^ http://www.detnews.com/article/20091113/AUTO01/911130435/1148/auto01/Ford-fast-tracks-new-cop-car-to-replace-Crown-Vic
  39. ^ http://www.detnews.com/article/20100312/AUTO01/3120341/1148/auto01/Ford-debuts-new-Police-Interceptor
  40. ^ http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2010/04/07/472201.html
  41. ^ http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2009/10/05/480203.html

External links[edit]