The Wheels of Justice Sept/Oct 2023

Collage of safety items for emergencies while driving.



Welcome to the latest installment of “The Wheels of Justice,” originating from the hot, hot Ozarks (I know, it’s hot everywhere). Sit down, pour yourself a cool anything and take a break while you catch up on the latest in our world of the four Cs.

Crime and Crashes

We’ve talked before about the huge problem across the US of catalytic converter thefts. Despite numerous federal and local agency task forces making arrests of organized gangs, many of these thefts are more critical as they have resulted in serious injuries to the victims and even murders, including that of a brother officer. 

In Houston, TX, an off-duty officer encountered three cretins stealing the converter off his POV in a parking lot and they exchanged gunfire. The officer was hit and later died at a hospital. In Oakland, a car owner was shot and killed during a theft and, in Dallas, a car owner standing on a third floor balcony was shot and killed after he yelled at thieves below stealing his converter. In fact, a simple Google search of (innocent) people shot by catalytic converter thieves in the 2022 calendar year revealed 38 victims which is likely an underestimation.

High clearance vehicles, such as SUVs, pickups and vans, are the favorite targets since they are easier to crawl under and most thefts occur after dark when the cats are cooler. LE vehicles – like prisoner transport, SWAT and CSI vans, pick-ups, Tahoes, and Utilities – certainly are prime targets for criminals, particularly those parked overnight.

I worked a pawn shop detail when gold and silver prices were sky-high and shops buying both seemingly sprung up overnight all over the city. Simultaneous to this, we had a huge increase in residential burglaries and many folks lost their precious family heirlooms. But, the value of converters makes what those street corner entrepreneurs were paying for gold look like chump change. Converters require three precious metals in their construction: rhodium, palladium and platinum. For the purposes of a recent comparison, gold was selling at $1,645 an ounce, while rhodium was selling for $12,763 per ounce, palladium at $2,135 per ounce and platinum was valued at $1,028 an ounce. Plus, not all converters are created equal, as bigger engines generally require larger cats and some high performance V8s even have two cats! 

The replacement cost to a vehicle owner (without insurance) can really be a shock, with a price range of $1000 to $3700.

I always fondly reminisce about being lucky enough to have been a car owner in the 60s when all we had to worry about was someone stealing our hubcaps.

Distracted Driver Crashes

Another current worldwide phenomenon is fatal accidents caused by distracted drivers. It seems like the popular use of cell phones while driving has quadrupled these incidents. In fact, using cell phones (talking, texting, E-mails) is the number one cause of distracted driver fatality accidents in the US today. However, other factors, such as being distracted by someone or something (second), reaching for an object (third), using vehicle controls (fourth), adjusting the radio/CD/HVAC (fifth), and eating or drinking (sixth). Other driver actions such as applying makeup, daydreaming, sleeping, and smoking made the list.

Several jurisdictions have aggressive distracted driver enforcement programs with hefty fines, particularly involving cell phones. Despite the best enforcement efforts, distracted driving accidents continue to be a chronic problem in America. In 2021, this careless behavior took the lives of 3,522 people according to NHTSA. This is such a serious problem that we now even track the percentages of fatal accidents caused by distracted drivers and list them by state.

The top ten states for distracted driver fatalities are led by New Mexico with the highest (40.75%); Hawaii ranks second (28.72%); Kansas is third (21.26%); Louisiana (19.5%); New Jersey (19.28%); Washington (16.75%); Illinois (16.36%); Kentucky (16.35%); Virginia (11.81%); and Idaho (10.66%). Male drivers are far more likely to die in accidents than female drivers, the NHTSA also reported.

While distracted drivers are responsible for a record number of traffic accident fatalities, we would be remiss not to mention other causes, such as drunk or drugged drivers, speeding or careless driving, faulty tires or equipment, and sleepy or medicated drivers. 

However, fatal accidents caused by cell phone use can be mitigated somewhat.  Of course, the simplest solution has been provided by the automakers – “hands-free” telephone technology which operates through the audio system is included on most late model vehicles. On later models (and police cars) not so equipped, the solution is readily available for less than 20 bucks. Aftermarket companies offer cell phone holders which mount on dashboards or ride in cup holders. While these still require activation (off/on) by a driver, they are certainly better than handheld.

Reducing the Risk of EV Fires

With the number of agencies either testing or purchasing EVs for LE duties, it is imperative that both fleet personnel and individual operators are aware of fire dangers inherent with lithium-ion batteries. It is well known that these batteries are affected by heat, age, usage, and external impacts like a collision. All of these conditions are common in police work and occur more frequently than in civilian use. EVs are 0.3% likely to ignite when compared to a 1.05% chance for ICE vehicles, the NTSB reported. The latest data from the NTSB ranked fires in hybrid, gas-powered and EVs, with hybrids being the most susceptible to fires and EVs the least. 

Lithium-ion batteries are made up of thousands of cells, so fires rapidly spread between them. The EV fires burn at a higher temperature than gasoline fires and are more likely to reignite. They don’t need outside oxygen to burn which means they are harder to extinguish…water has no effect and the fire fumes are toxic.

Overcharging a battery can take it to an extreme which could lead to a battery being less stable and more susceptible to a fire. Degraded batteries can also pose a threat to officers assigned to EVs and hybrids and mechanics servicing them should be made aware of these hazards.

Recalls, Alerts and Other Bad Stuff

In every column, we provide recent recalls and alerts which can impact both your fleets and/or your officer’s safety, presented by the make of the vehicle.

Ford® announced recalls of certain 2022-2023 F-150® Lightning® pickups because the rear lightbar might be inoperative due to microcracks in the lens which can leak, increasing the risk of an accident. Other recalls from Ford involve the 2020-2023 Escape® Hybrids and 2022-2023 compact Maverick® pickups due to oil and fuel vapors which could be released into engine compartments due to engine failures which could ignite. 

If you utilize Ford Transit® vans for prisoner transports or CSI, over 31,000 2022-2023 units were recalled due to issues with the HVAC systems which could cause the controls to become inoperative, affecting both defogging and defrosting.

Ford has also now recalled 870,000 2021-2023 F-150 pickups for potential fire risks involving parking brakes mounted too close to single exhausts. This could cause the electric parking brake to activate unexpectedly, resulting in loss of control of the vehicle and increasing the risk of a crash.

Daimler Vans are popular for prisoner transport, CSI and SWAT and approximately 20,000 2021-2923 Sprinters have been recalled because their fuel pumps may shut down which can cause a sudden loss of power.

RAM® Trucks recalled certain 2014-2019 vehicles powered by the 3.0L diesel engine because the crankshaft position sensor wheel can delaminate, causing the engine to fail.

Knapheide supplies several pickup makes with Remote Control Circuit Boards which control optional WARN winches and they have been recalled because of corrosion. The recall involves 2023 Ford F-250®, F-350® and F-550; 2023 GM 2500 HD; 2023 GM 3500; and 2022 RAM 3500 equipped with optional WARN winches.

What recall list would be complete without Tesla? They are recalling certain 2021-2023 Model S and Model X vehicles because the front seat belts may not be connected properly to the pretensioner anchors which can cause seat belts to detach, resulting in death or injury. Additionally, Tesla is recalling certain 2023 Model S, Model X and Model Y because the forward-facing camera may be misaligned, causing some of the active safety features (emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane assist) to be unavailable without alerting the driver.

EV News

It seems every article I write anymore concerns news about electric vehicles and today is no different as we’ll bring you up-to-date on all the EV news, good and bad, and we’ll list the latest departments adding EVs to their fleets or testing them. We also have breaking news about charging stations and we’ll announce the newest electric cruiser coming at you.

New Purchases

NYC’s electric fleet has now surpassed 4600 EVs, aiming for 5000 by the end of this year, as they march headlong towards an all-electric fleet. They now have 207 fast chargers operating across 12 city departments. The 50 KW fast chargers can charge a vehicle’s battery from 20% to 80% in an hour or less. (The article failed to mention what percentage of the 4600 vehicles or 207 fast chargers were assigned to the NYC Police Department.)

The South Pasadena, CA, Police Department is the first California department to replace their entire fleet with Teslas. In partnership with Southern California Edison, they have leased ten Model Y and ten Model 3 vehicles for 60 months and they will be deployed (after upfitting) for a mix of duties, including patrol, K-9 and detectives.

Bellevue, NE, Police Department has unveiled its first electric patrol vehicle, a 2022 Mustang Mach-E which will be tested on road patrol for the indefinite future. The department has no plans to replace its current fleet of hybrid and ICE vehicles at this time.

Charging Stations

In a first ever collaboration, seven automakers have formed the North American Charging Standards to build at least 30,000 high-power charging stations using federal, state and private funds. The first stations are expected to open in the US in the summer of 2024 and, in Canada, at a later date.

The stations will be built in convenient locations, with canopies wherever possible, and amenities such as restrooms, food service and retail operations. They will be located in metropolitan areas and along major highways, including connecting corridors and popular vacation routes.

The seven partners in this first ever exciting venture are: BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai, KIA, Mercedes, Nissan, Stellantis, and Tesla. (No indication why the automotive giant, Toyota, has not joined this collaboration.)

According to the US Department of Energy, as of July 2023, there are 32,000 publicly available fast chargers in the US being used by 2.3 million electric vehicles (at a ratio of 72 vehicles per charger) and it is estimated that 182,000 DC fast chargers will be needed to support 30-42 million EVs on the road by 2030, so the seven car makers have undertaken an ambitious task.

James Post is a retired veteran of 27 years of police service, as well as stints with the US Marshals Service, private security and as a fire chief. He is an avid police car collector and restorer. He lives in the picturesque Ozark hills of Arkansas and always appreciates reader’s comments and suggestions. He can be reached at

40th Anniversary Celebrated

Assembled Products Corporation (APC) recently commemorated 40 years on August 30, 2023, at the Metroplex Event Center. Their journey began in 1983 with the creation of the first Mart Cart in an Arkansas garage. This pioneering mobility scooter, tailored for shopping, found its first home at Chester’s Market in Connecticut, sparking a movement towards shopping independence for those with limited mobility. Thus, Assembled Products Corporation emerged, dedicated to “Products That Make Life Better” in Northwest Arkansas.

What originated as a solution for an elderly family member’s shopping needs blossomed into four decades of innovation and manufacturing excellence. Erin Kiefer, APC’s President and CEO, stated, “This 40 year milestone isn’t just about products; it’s a celebration of our journey, our employees’ contributions, and the continuous development of products and services for our customers.”

Assembled Products Corporation now comprises three distinct brands: Mart Cart pioneered electronic shopping carts; Spray Master Technologies introduced central pressure washer systems; and Jotto Desk equipped law enforcement patrol vehicles. Their united team, representing all three brands, is a family working under the Assembled Products Corporation banner.

Safeguarding Night Vision for Enhanced Work Conditions and Safety

The convergence of scientific knowledge and engineering expertise takes center stage at SoundOff Signal, particularly in the realm of illuminating solutions aimed at preserving night vision for optimized performance during low-light situations. While the company is primarily recognized for its focus on safety through external vehicle signaling lights, the significance of internal vehicle lighting, both in terms of type and intensity, cannot be underestimated.

Adequate lighting within enclosed workspaces plays a pivotal role in facilitating adaptable vision, empowering individuals to carry out their tasks efficiently and respond promptly to emerging emergency scenarios.

Doug Baker, Senior Vice President of Technology and Chief Innovation Officer at SoundOff Signal, unveils the science behind the company’s in-vehicle lighting solutions for nighttime use, emphasizing the preservation of night vision, also referred to as scotopic vision. He simplifies the concept by explaining that “utilizing a low level of red light is the key to safeguarding night vision.”

The human eye undergoes a gradual adjustment after being exposed to white or intense visible light. This adjustment can impede the ability to perceive objects and information when lighting conditions shift rapidly. However, exposure to minimal amounts of red light enables the eyes to swiftly adapt to dark conditions, facilitating the seamless operation of emergency personnel and civilians as they transition from well-lit workspaces to areas with reduced light. Scenarios like cockpit lighting in an aircraft or interior vehicle lighting in police cruisers demand the ability to perform tasks within the vehicle while quickly adapting to low-light external conditions.

To comprehend this science, Baker offers a brief anatomy lesson. He explains that our vision relies on both chromatic (color) and light/dark distinction sensors in our eyes, known as cones and rods. Despite coming from distinct optical sensors, our brains seamlessly integrate this information.

Human vision’s color perception is achieved through a combination of different cones sensitive to red, green and blue. The visible light spectrum ranges from 400 to 700 nanometers (nm) wavelength (Figure 1) which is a small fraction of the broader electromagnetic spectrum. In daylight conditions, the brain prioritizes signals from cone sensors for high resolution color vision while disregarding signals from ultrasensitive rods. In low-light conditions, only signals from these ultrasensitive rods are processed, resulting in grayscale visual perception. This explains why nighttime vision allows us to perceive objects without much color differentiation.

Recognizing that rods are pivotal for night vision, the strategy becomes clear: preserving these sensors for when we require heightened vision in the dark without waiting for the eye’s photochemical adaptation delay. Any sudden overstimulation of the rod sensor can temporarily diminish its responsiveness (low-light night vision). This is exacerbated by the fact that scotopic vision is most sensitive to low to mid wavelengths (from blue to green wavelengths). For instance, abruptly switching from a well-lit room to darkness or vice versa causes a delayed response in vision adjustment.

Due to this effect, minimal amounts of red light don’t excessively stimulate the rods, as depicted in Figure 2 by the slight overlap between the energy of a red LED and the rod sensitivity curve. In contrast, “white” light contains energy across blue, green and red regions. Even in low quantities, white light stimulates the rod sensor. A prime example of this issue occurs when working at night under the conventional white dome light in a vehicle, followed by straining to see outside into areas with low light. This explains why many special service vehicles feature a red dome light option, preserving the individual’s rod sensor and thus enhancing rapid “night vision.”

Grounded in scientific principles, SoundOff Signal’s lighting solutions include controllers which enable custom management of LED lights. These include the bluePRINT® family of controllers, specifically the 500 Series and Central Controller which are designed to facilitate effective and safe job performance for law enforcement.