Police cars are typically modified from ordinary road vehicles to accommodate not only identifying features like claxons and lights but also forensic aids and safety measures. The types of modifications a police vehicle receive depend on its purpose in the fleet.
Although many auto manufacturers do have models marketed specifically for use in public safety settings that already have most of the trappings of police vehicles, many police department still uses stock vehicles that they actively modify for the purpose. This is usually true for standard patrol cars, which usually do not need as many bells and whistles built-in as other cars.
Most types of police cars are sedans. However, almost any stock model can be converted—with the proper set of accessories and modifications—into a police vehicle. Pittsburgh, PA, at one point had an entire fleet of police vehicles converted from unusual automobiles not usually seen in police work. Specialist items—including shock bumpers and an array of police lights—are usually installed onto the framework of a pre-existing vehicle.
Police vehicle equipment has several uses. In Kansas and throughout the United States, the most obvious of this equipment are those used to identify the car as a police vehicle. Others, meanwhile, are used in an investigation. Vehicles used for rescue purposes are often outfitted in a similar manner, identifying the rescue vehicle to bystanders and providing public safety officers with ample utility when on assignment.
The types of accessories used for police cars are heavily dependent on their main purpose in the fleet. A standard patrol car’s main purpose is to move police officers from one place to another and respond to emergencies on short notice. The average patrol car would typically receive the most basic of accessories that mark them as police vehicles—visual markings, claxons, and lights. Similar—albeit much faster—vehicles are used as traffic cars, designed to apprehend speeding motorists.
Response cars, meanwhile, are usually much faster models designed to pursue criminals—usually very dangerous individuals—on the run. Besides visual and audible warnings, response cars typically have more features—which include shock bumpers—to accommodate the apprehension of felons and minimize damage to surrounding vehicles during the pursuit.
Specialist vehicles would be based on modified sports utility vehicles and are designed for carrying police dogs and personnel across rough terrain. These vehicles are also often used to haul large quantities of equipment to an emergency scene.
Standard and Specialist Equipment
At its most basic, a police car must be distinguishable from civilian vehicles. Specialized police cars and modified stock models alike are usually painted a specific color and are often emblazoned with the logo of the city’s police department. Police cars are also outfitted with multiple warning lights and the familiar claxons to visually and audibly distinguish police vehicles on the move and at night.
Police vehicles today may sometimes have a broad array of forensic tools to help investigators thoroughly analyze the crime scene. In addition, police cars may be outfitted with alarm systems that can alert officers of impending danger.
Even bigger changes are also made within the chassis. Besides having reinforced bumpers, police vehicles are also usually modified to have heavy-duty suspensions and enlarged alternators to accommodate the more complex electrical systems used to identify the vehicles and operate additional forensic equipment.
The interiors of some police vehicles are also modified to accommodate a separator between the front and back seats of the car. This cage is designed to prevent arrested felons from attempting to access the driver’s seat. Other modern modifications to the car interior include seats designed to comfortably accommodate police officer’s belts and holsters.