Sergeant James Post
Nat King Cole once sang about “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” and that’s what it certainly has been here in the great USA, what with floods, heat waves, politics, and criminals running amuck. Here’s the latest breaking news from the world of police wheels which you may have missed…vehicles, accessories, alerts, and recalls.
Electrifying news: The Arkansas Democrat Gazette announced that Harley-Davidson® released news about their electric motorcycle which will be unveiled later this year. To bolster declining sales, they hope this will appeal to a new generation of riders, a.k.a. Green Movement supporters. The Live Wire will be available at a limited number of dealerships. With a MSRP of nearly $30K, reportedly, it can do 0-60 mph in three seconds and without a clutch or shifting. Buyers will have free access to charge the Live Wire at participating dealers for the first two years.
There is no mention that this technology will be applied to H-D® police bikes in the future, but, if this trial program is successful (profitable), you can bet that future cops on Harleys will be looking for a place to plug in.
Speaking of electricity, Government Fleet has reported that a Tesla has been successfully track tested by the Brookhaven, GA, Police Department. Utilizing a pre-owned (confiscated) 2015 Tesla Model S, tests were conducted on both high-speed and urban tracks at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center and it now has entered the third phase of evaluation and will be used to patrol city streets for 90 days. If successful, the city may consider switching to an all-electric fleet.
But, if you still aren’t sold on a “green” cruiser, consider the Florida Highway Patrol which has added a Dodge Challenger R/T to its fleet of Dodge Chargers. Although not a production police car, it comes equipped with the 375 hp 5.7L V-8, plus it’s painted the traditional black and tan two-tone and is fully marked. It also features all of the lights and other bells and whistles, but is run “slick top” with no overhead lightbar. This cruiser is currently assigned to Troop G in Jacksonville, reports Government Fleet, who quoted a FLHP tweet, “As you can see, we take aggressive driving seriously! Please slow down, buckle up and reduce distractions. We are watching.” Nuff said.
A recent cable TV special caught my attention. Actually, they had me from the title, “Live PD Presents: Top Ten Police Vehicles.” “Live PD” is a show patterned after what many experts cite as “the first reality (nonscripted) television show, ‘Cops,’ ” which debuted 30 years ago this year. The original show came about during a protracted writers’ strike and was possible because it required no script – just a two person sound and video crew on a ride-along with real officers. And, the rest is history.
The “Live PD” special’s title was somewhat misleading, as the show only featured three vehicles which were actual production police vehicles, but, nonetheless, it was interesting and provided me with info for this column! So, without further ado, here are their “top ten” favorite police vehicles, listed by agency: 10. Richland County (SC) Sheriff’s Office – 2017 Camaro; 9. Patterson (LA) Police Department – Ford® Crown Victoria Interceptor; 8. Puerto Rico Super Bike Unit – 1300cc Hayabusa Motorcycle; 7. Arizona Highway Patrol Road Rage Squad – two Mustangs, a Challenger and a Camaro; 6. Marshall Islands Police Department – Quadski, a four-wheel vehicle which operates on land and water; 5. West Baton Rouge (LA) Parish Sheriff – Chevrolet SSV pickup; 4. Mission (TX) Police Department SWAT – military surplus MRAP six- wheel; 3. Riverside (CA) Police Department – Saleen Mustang; 2. NYPD Transit Bureau Bomb and K-9 – Ford Super Duty 450; and 1. Gwinnett County (GA) Police Department – Dodge Charger Pursuit.
Vehicle Alerts and Recalls
I’ve always advised departments to keep their fleets clean and there are several valid reasons; the first being officer morale and citizen perception. A clean police car should make an officer proud and, hopefully, that will extend to his/her uniform and other equipment and even to his/her outlook and, ultimately, his/her performance. A clean police car should impress (most) citizens with how you are maintaining their equipment which should translate to the department’s professionalism. Clean police cars are more efficient to operate and, if well maintained mechanically, internally and externally, should improve resale value.
I’m not suggesting that officers carry wash mitts and chamois with their other gear, but there are other options. Many departments utilize trustees serving minor/nonviolent sentences or folks performing community service to regularly wash their fleet.
Most large departments contract with local “automatic” or “do-it-yourself” car washes, as they do service stations, on an annual basis. Throughout the Rust Belt (and elsewhere), automatic car washes are popular because most include “bottom washes” which help remove salt and other contaminates which can cause an early demise to brake and chassis components.
But, now, modern technology forces me to contradict most of what I wrote in the preceding paragraph. Automotive Fleet recently warned that, in most cases, contemporary automotive technology has not been designed to be compatible with modern car washes. Of course, this applies to your police cars, too. They stated, “One visit to a car wash can wreak havoc because advanced systems weren’t designed with car washes in mind.”
Following are some of the systems/functions which can be affected by automatic car washes. If you use a car wash with a “driverless” system, be sure to keep the fob on your person. Heavy brushes can lock doors which have external lock/unlock buttons. The same brushes can activate collision avoidance systems, so turn them off before entering the wash. While you’re disengaging, do so with your start/stop technology, as well. Finally, most new vehicles feature moisture sensors which automatically activate windshield wipers when moisture is detected. If your fleet is so equipped, the feature should be disengaged (or the wipers taped in place) before entering the car wash because the brushes can rip them clean off the car. While some automated car washes are working to combat this technology, all of this sure makes the old “trusty” hand wash look more reliable!
More technology that can ruin your day is the optional Police Fleet Key System offered by manufacturers. While this system simplifies entering and starting vehicles used by multiple officers, it can be a real nightmare if just one key falls into the wrong hands. This recently occurred at the Boynton Beach (FL) Police Department when juveniles obtained a fleet key and broke into 11 patrol cars. The loss from the vehicles and the disposition of the juveniles is unknown, but, obviously, some protective measures are in order – perhaps a rigid control system like controls for any other dangerous equipment, with officers’ badge numbers stamped on keys, or even a return to magnetic key boxes concealed somewhere on a car.
Automotive Fleet announced a recall from FCA for 2019 Jeep® Cherokees. Although there is no police rated Cherokee currently available, they are popular with fleets which operate other FCA LE vehicles, such as Charger, Durango and RAM®. Often, the Jeeps are used by Admin and CID. FCA is recalling 41,169 units because impact and acceleration sensors may fail and reduce the air bag system’s ability to properly detect certain crash events.
Cops, Cars and Criminals
Distracted drivers are currently the motoring public’s greatest threat. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, distracted drivers accounted for 3,166 deaths in 2017, the last year stats are available. The National Safety Council has stated that distracted driving has surpassed drunk driving in terms of the number of fatalities in this category. Of course, distracted driving can be anything from eating a Big Mac® to shaving or trying to find a cigarette ember dropped in a lap to reading a newspaper. But, the primary distraction certainly is talking or texting on a cell phone. Jurisdictions throughout the country have enacted laws to combat this growing problem. Recently, Automotive Fleet reported on the enforcement of two states’ new laws, Illinois and Georgia.
The “Trooper in a Truck” program is a joint effort between the Illinois Trucking Association and Illinois State Police to catch violators of Illinois’ hands-free law. State troopers riding shotgun in borrowed trucks use the elevated position to spot drivers using cell phones and other devices and they radio ahead to waiting marked units.
Law officers in Georgia used a different technique as officers from the Marietta Police Department, disguised as utility workers, watched for drivers violating the Georgia Hands-Free Act. In July, three officers went undercover posing as utility workers on a major intersection’s raised medians to observe traffic. They radioed ahead violators’ information to 40 marked cars stationed in the area. While not all of the citations were for distracted driving, Georgia troopers wrote 29 tickets and Marietta and Cobb County officers wrote 141. Georgia’s law prohibits drivers from holding their phones, or having it anywhere on their body, while driving, even if the driver is stopped at a light.
Despite auto thefts in Albuquerque (NM) dropping 28% since 2016, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB’s) 2018 Hot Spots Vehicle Theft Report, they still have the highest per capita rate of vehicle thefts in the nation. Specifically, in 2018, the Albuquerque Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) experienced 7,146 thefts, compared to 9,839 in 2017. Rounding out the top five 2018 MSAs were Anchorage (AL) with 3,087 thefts; Bakersfield (CA) with 6,748; Pueblo (CO) with 1,175; and Modesto (CA) with 3,428.
These statistics may be somewhat misleading because the NICB survey is population-based which is how St. Joseph (MO) with 647 thefts placed tenth on the Hot Spot List, while Los Angeles with 53,928 thefts is ranked 38th. The majority of the top ten MSAs this year have been there before, but Wichita (KS) is the newest to break into the top ten, placing eighth with 3,547 vehicle thefts.
It’s not all doom and gloom because modern technology has made vehicles more difficult to steal. In fact, the FBI reported a 33% decrease in vehicle thefts nationwide for the first half of 2018. That said, don’t ever believe that thieves don’t keep up with technology. When they discovered that the early ’70s Dodge and Chrysler minivans had steering columns built by GM’s Saginaw plant, the car thief’s best friend, we saw those thefts increase dramatically.
And, why are all those vehicles stolen? Besides joy rides, being disassembled for parts and exotics being shipped overseas, an alarming number are being stolen for more serious offenses, such as human trafficking. I received a press release from the Liberty County (TX) Sheriff’s Office which reported a large increase in pickup truck thefts since December 2018. Most of the trucks stolen were described as “typical South Texas work trucks, i.e., white, high profile crew cab trucks with big engines that can travel in areas where normal LE vehicles cannot.”
Several of the trucks have been recovered and deputies discovered that the rear windows were totally blacked out, and rear seats and interior panels removed which provided enough room to carry from eight to ten persons. Food wrappers and water bottles littered the interiors, further indicating the trucks had been used to carry human cargo. It should be noted that Liberty County is several hundred miles from the Mexico border. A video of an incident which occurred in Brooks County, TX, serves as a perfect example of this occurrence and can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y4aa7g46
Baltimore certainly has been in the news lately, but here is some Baltimore news you may have missed. Government Fleet announced that, in early June, a woman reported she had been sexually assaulted inside a patrol car by a man wearing a police uniform. The Baltimore Police Commissioner’s office confirmed that they were investigating the allegation. During the resulting investigation, the police department pulled 120 patrol cars out of service so they could be forensically examined. This resulted in officers being “doubled” up for patrol, assigning two officers to each patrol car still on the road for the duration of the investigation. Detectives also reviewed over 600 written daily logs and viewed video from more than 300 body cameras.
After several days of investigation, the police department arrested Richard Stevens Barnes, a security guard at a local hospital who posed as a police officer. And, Baltimore returned to “normal,” I assume. Overreaction? You be the judge.
Ever since our nation’s Independence Day, we’ve witnessed far too many instances of lawless CRIMINAL MOBS assaulting our officers with water…hoses, buckets, plastic water guns, whatever. These attacks have occurred in several cities with spectators cheering on the offenders and filming it all for social media. Of course, those cell phone videos soon make their way to mainstream media where they are repeated on every broadcast. Now, I don’t know of any jurisdiction where this latest disrespect of America’s cops would not be considered some type of assault, but they went on for days with no apparent intervention which, naturally, caused copycat incidents. Finally, the NYPD and other departments started arresting offenders. Their cell phone videos proved to be the greatest evidence! Now, we have learned that New York State lawmakers are preparing legislation which would make “water assaults” on police officers felonies with one to four year prison sentences possible. Let’s hope the eventual law doesn’t get “watered down” to a slap on the wrist misdemeanor.
Finally, and as if our cops don’t have enough to worry about, I’ve learned from a friend who is a fellow LE retiree in Australia that their country shares our antipolice mindset in their liberal government and media, too. He states, “There is no respect for the police anymore and the latest crime wave in the country is intentionally ramming occupied police cars.” He continued, “The hype about Australia being lucky and a peaceful place to live is absolute rubbish.”
I know I’m preaching to the choir, but continue to pray for support and justice for the men and women of American law enforcement.
Sergeant James Post always appreciates your comments, suggestions and ideas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.