By on October 26, 2010

So there I was, minding my own business, driving down the road, enjoying the new Isobel Campbell record and relaxing in the right lane, when I saw two Crown Vics from the local sheriff’s department running up hard behind me, lights, sirens, the whole deal. I moved halfway onto the shoulder to let them by, and then, motivated by nothing more than a love of mayhem, decided to follow them for a while.

The two sheriffs were pushing up to as much as ninety miles per hour in-between clumps of stopped traffic. I loafed along behind them at a distance that allowed those drivers to get started again before I went by. I never went as fast as the cops did, but I never went as slow as they did, either. Over the course of about eight miles, I watched them repeatedly come to screeching brake-and-swerve stops before picking their way through the cars, almost always in a manner that indicated they weren’t looking any further ahead than a few car lengths. Twice the second cop nearly, er, buttslammed the first, usually while applying some pretty heavy-duty steering input in concert with full ABS.

By the time the twin Vics screamed off onto a side road, tossing dirt and rocks in their wake, I was of the opinion that these “trained” drivers would have been out of their depths in NASA’s HPDE 1 group. They repeatedly endangered their own lives and the lives of others… and when I say that, you know some serious idiocy is going down, right? They were unable to separate their turn-and-stop motions. They ran too closely, which adversely affected their ability to make intelligent choices in traffic and dramatically increased the likelihood that they would strike either an innocent bystander or each other.

Perhaps the most damning statement I can make about their ability was that I had no trouble keeping up with them, and I never found myself coming close to other cars or experiencing the sky-high closing speeds they were creating. By running without lights and just working steadily through traffic at 70 mph or so, they would have made better time than they did by gas-and-braking their way down the road. Given a day or two at BeaveRun’s Vehicle Dynamics Facility, I could have completely straightened those two cops out… but I’m no more likely to assist the police than my personal hero, Professor Griff, would be. I’m here to fight the power, yo.

I did find myself thinking that it was a good thing these cops didn’t have any more horsepower than they did. Equipped with HEMI Chargers or Caprice PPVs, these cops would have been hitting 110 or 120 between the gaps. Somebody could have been badly injured.

We already accept, as a society, the idea that it’s better to restrict the capability of machines than to properly train their operators. (See: speed limits, gun control, the OSHA.) What if we simply extended this idea to include law enforcement? In other words, what if we slowed down the cops to protect the innocent? What say you?

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83 Comments on “Ask The Best & Brightest: How Fast Should A Cop Car Be?...”


  • avatar
    mikedt

    This is why, if I was in charge, cops would be driving around in fuel efficient fwd compact cars. They should never be doing high speed chases. Use the radio. I don’t buy the “they’re professionals, they have the proper training” line because when you’re in traffic, training is of little value when an idiot does something unexpected at the last minute. All you have to do is look at news reports of cops getting into accidents (an almost daily event on Philly news) to convince you that these guys should never drive more than 10mph over the speed limit.
    And as for transporting perps, handcuff them to some unmovable object and call in for a paddy wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      I agree with this. The cases where the powerful engine/rugged suspension/etc.. are really required are the outliers where other solutions could be utilized (motorola or specialized units).

    • 0 avatar
      jaybird124

      I totally agree with Mike. You can’t predict what the other goof is going to do on the open road.
      I’d also challenge the level of ‘professional training’ they’re getting. I find it ironic that they can drive like idiots to respond to a non urgent call because they’ve been ‘trained’. Even though I’ve received much more extensive driving training and continuous car control practice, I’d be branded a ‘maniac” if I did the same maneuvers in my BMW (which is better built for performance than a Vic).
      Nevertheless, bottom line is you can’t drive that way on an open road. Lights or not.

    • 0 avatar
      twonius

      Say hello to Dutch Police cars… Diesel minivans.

      http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2090/2327754967_162f1c87e1.jpg

      They’re actually pretty nice, with plenty of room and cameras mounted all over.  They also get going at a decent enough clip, especailly in the city. They’re probably a little slow as interceptors but hey.. you can’t outrun the radio

    • 0 avatar
      Sugarbrie

      It was a well trained cop driver with many years experience that infamously crashed that Lexus with the sliding floor mats.
       
      He was so well trained, he did not even have the common sense to put the car in neutral and/or shut it off.

      Or even step on the brakes, which tests showed would have stopped the car, even with the engine at full throttle.
       
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The “professional training” gibberish is just more of the same old credentialism that is running rampant everywhere. Be nice to and connected with our self imposed overlords, and they give you some certificate of privilege not available to others.
       
      If cops’ reason to be able to drive faster than those they’re supposed to serve, were really their superior training, anyone else who obtained said training should get the same leeway. Essentially graduated speed limits based on some hopefully “objective” skills test. Same goes for guns, incidentally; but unfortunately dot connecting, like sense in general, never did play well in progressive ville.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      No car can outrun a radio.

      If people would keep that in mind, everything becomes a lot simpler.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      @Sugarbrie – You hit the nail on the head.  Feel just terrible for that family, but seriously – CHiPs should have an modicum of driving training.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      Last weekend, there was a homecoming event at Stanford which meant that an unusually large number of d-bags that graduated from there showed up.  The city of Palo Alto naturally had their police in full force – on brand new shiny motorbikes (your property taxes being put to great use, sheeple of Palo Alto).  The majority of the gestapo seemed VERY unfamiliar with riding bikes – specially at the slow speeds and uneven dirt surfaces in the parking lots they were patrolling.  Wobbling, herky-jerky moves, collisions with parked cars, stalling frequently, etc.  And a good 40 or 50 of them were hanging around at the nearby strip mall, chatting in front of Mayfields and Hobees, and drinking free coffee.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Simply put, any machine or tool is only as effective as its operator. Require that cops undergo extensive advanced driver training that includes being able to drive and manuver a variety of vehicles (front-/rear-drive, larger SUVs, more nimble urban Impala cruisers, etc) in a variety of environments other than a skidpad.

    Just as how you don’t let someone with a single-engine land PPL in command of a 737, we shouldn’t let the only qualification be a valid license and a decent driving history.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      On a larger scale, tiered licensing should be implemented for regular drivers, too.
       
      I’d love better driver training, but everyone bitches about the cost. Well, how about we start everyone out in small fwd vehicles and ensure they have 2+ years without incident, then allow them to move up in the world.

      Little to no incremental cost, and you let your driving record speak for itself (just like with insurance rates).

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I agree with both of you gentlemen.  If the cop is properly qualified in some sort of driving class that has to be re-certified every so many years, then let him have the higher powered machines.  In snow belt states 90% of police work could be accomplished by AWD 4cyl Equinoxes.
       
      And for the love of god, introduce tiered licensure for drivers.  I still hold a teaching license and its pretty rigorous to move from one level to another in NM.  (My ex-wife in fact managed to “flunk out” of teaching in NM.)  Devise ways for drivers to prove their skill and then let me drive 85-90mph on a freeway marked 75mph and don’t give me any hassle.  If you want me to slow down at night and in poor weather conditions I’m all for it (which is why I do it now anyway.)

  • avatar
    Zammy

    I’m going to hate myself for saying this, but maybe we should take more of a British approach.

    Not every British officer has a firearm. The guns are left to the specially trained units. Similarly, I would say that not every American officer should have a V8 Sedan. Give most of them mid-range V6 SUVs or hatches and save the pursuit cars for the pursuit units.

    I would bet that 98%+ of police work could still be done effectively if officers were incapable of high speeds. And I would prefer that a small number of pursuees get away then *ever* have a bystander killed as the result of a high-speed chase.

    We ask a lot of our officers. But honestly, not every officer can be an expert on the law, and on firearm tactics and operations, and on high speed driving, and on social work, and on the other hundreds of tasks we ask them to deal with.

    • 0 avatar
      sjhwilkes

      The British approach applies to cars too, only a small fraction of UK cops get advanced vehicle training and access to faster cars.  The rest have to drive economical Euro cars, usually diesels…

  • avatar
    ott

    While I’m all for cops having the right tool for the job, whether it be the right weapons, protection, or in this case vehicles, Those tools should be handled with care and professionalism. With power comes responsibility, and if these two officers were perhaps searching for a particular perp or vehicle on the stretch of highway you were on, then fine. Do what you’ve got to do, and drive how you must to get the job done. If they were just speeding because they’re the law and frankly they CAN, then shame on them.

  • avatar
    snabster

    Make every cop drive a Prius — or Insight — and give them a couple motorbikes for chases.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Unless there’s an immediate safety risk, there’s very little reason to ever chase someone.  You cannot outrun radio.
       
      Have a look at how paramedics or fire drive.  Even paramedics, who are dealing with life and death in terms of minutes and seconds, don’t drive like this.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    High speed red lights and sirens runs are called “show business” in the trade.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Yeah. In my experience, most cops are cops because they like the power and authority that comes with the job, and driving as fast as you please is one of the perks of that. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who knows the bully from high-school who became a cop. Sure, there’s always a lot of bluster about “putting their lives on the line.” and that’s true in and around major population centers. But in BFE-North Carolina or somewhere, the job is mostly fleecing highway drivers and responding to the domestic disturbance calls (Bud’s beatin on his wife agin).
    It’s a powerful job that appeals to those looking for a power-trip and a pay check in addition to those who actually believe in the job.

    • 0 avatar
      EEGeek

      I believe this to be true, particularly for patrol.  I briefly courted a woman (mostly talk/email – no chemistry when we met) who decided in her 40s to become a cop after being an EMT for 10+ years.  Petite, but tough chick, I gotta say. 

      She basically despised most of the deputies on road patrol for tear-assing around as fast as they could to make themselves feel important.  How are you supposed to see anything when you’re driving like that?  She described a sergeant breaking a drunk guys teeth just because the drunk vomited at his feet.  Truly disgusting behavior that seems to be ingrained in the culture, at least in that department.  I hope she went back to being a full time EMT before she gets assimilated by it.

    • 0 avatar
      TexasAg03

      I can honestly say that none of the bullies in my high school ever became cops. Most of them were arrested by cops.

      Also, there’s as much danger out in “BFE” as anywhere. A lone cop stopping a car on a dark country road or even a major interstate away from a populated area is in as much, or maybe more, danger than in a large city.

      I do know a few cops who are probably in it for the power, but most of the ones I know are trying to make a difference.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Lots of “well meaning” guys do want to become cops, but as in every organization, the high drive, narcissistic elements over time drive out the “regular Joe’s.” Humans aren’t much different from other flock animals in that respect, with easily 95% preferring conflict avoidance, even when faced with behavior they don’t personally condone. Leaving an easy field for those few alpha types who swing the other way. The same dynamic is at work in every organization, but the detrimental effects on the population at large, does vary with the amount of liberties an organization can take with the lives and property of others.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      Most of the guys I went to school with who became cops were pretty nice guys, with one exception. He’s a local Deputy Sheriff (A friend calls him DS for dip shit). What is kind of scary is that two of the biggest aholes I went to school with went to the top in the good old US ARMY. When the first Iraq war started, I was watching a satellite feed on my 8′ dish, and they were talking to a Colonel, and I sat there looking at him and thought, “Damn, that looks like XXXXX XXXXXX!”, then he turned and I saw his name, and it was him! In 2003, I was watching one of the press conferences, and there he was again, and he was a GENERAL. I was recording it, and when I showed it to a friend and his wife who graduated with him, the looks on their faces was priceless.
      The other guy was one of the biggest morons in the school, really stupid, and famous for a paper he did about “weak males”. I had no idea what happened to him until his daughter’s wedding anouncement was in the paper. He was a general too!
      Well, the Army made my dad an airplane mechanic, fixing B-29′s in WWII. He needed help fixing a bike. I always laugh when I think about him fixing planes. I hope he didn’t kill anybody.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Remember all the hullabaloo about the Saylor case, and how a “trained” CHP officer was unable to react correctly?  This is why.
     
    It’s also why the Panther, stalwart that it is, enables the worst possible behaviour in it’s (police, taxi) drivers: there’s hardly any consequence to driving badly, and the sort of recklessness that would crack the CV joint of a Taurus (and get you a reprimand for an unneeded repair) is a non-issue.  As a result, you hop curbs and perform pits with impunity.
     
    If the whole rest of the world can use a car like a four-cylinder 3-Series for police work, why can’t North American officers?  The answer: discipline and restraint.
     
    The point about guns above is a good one.  Giving guns (or tasers, or whatever) to the police can be an an encouragement to escalation, no matter what training you provide.   Ditto a hi-power Interceptor.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    The flagship case in the unintended-exhilaration suit against Toyota was a California Highway Patrolman in a loaner Lexus in San Diego who, sadly, was killed along with his whole family on a freeway near San Diego. Everyone assumes he must have been a highly skilled driver, and that this proves the vehicle was at fault. My experience of cop driving is that they take needless chances, turn on their flashers rather than wait out red lights, follow too closely, and are full of testosterone-fueled anger along with doughnut carbs. You could stop all high-speed chases tomorrow and not see any increase in crime, but you’d sure see a decrease in workmans’ comp and disability claims by cops. The average young perp’s best chance of escaping is to get out of his car and outrun the cops on foot.

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    Sounds like those two were responding to a call instead of in pursuit. But that still doesn’t excuse their behavior. By the time they got where they were going I’m sure the crisis was past anyway. But they ought to have been reported for driving like they did. As far as pursuit, it’s been said many times, you can’t outrun the radio. Police should not pursue except in the rarest of cases. They generally can’t drive and their cars aren’t good enough to do it safely.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “To Endanger and Injure”

  • avatar

    A friend of mine is LAPD, and the first thing I asked him when he joined up was about driver training. Could I see the manual? How long was the training course? What kind of drills/tests did they have?
    The Short version is, it’s an embarassment, and the next time a cop tells me that he’s a “trained” professional, I’m going to, quite literally, laugh in his face. According to my LAPD buddy, police training consists of little more than the first half of the first day of any reputable driving school. Some of the topics covered? Countersteering, not braking while hydroplaning, keeping hands at 9 and 3, and braking before turning. That’s it. Then there’s a 2-hour track *ahem, autocross* session to “perfect” their techniques. They are then sent on their way as “trained” drivers.
    I think the Crown Vic is a fine mode of transportation for a cop, because it’s indestructible and these cops will beat them within an inch of their life and leave them in that state for the next 5-10 years, but there’s no reason cops should be driving around in 400hp sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      I disagree that they’re indestructible. They’re cheap, easy to fix and have been around forever (Abe Lincoln had one in his motorcade).

      I think the myth that they’re indestructible actually encourages their mistreatment.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I disagree that they’re indestructible. They’re cheap, easy to fix and have been around forever (Abe Lincoln had one in his motorcade). 

       
      Yeah but wasn’t his casket still carried in a Northstar powered DeVille hearse?

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      Sure, but back then Caddy’s were still the world standard for luxury and class.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    We already accept, as a society, the idea that it’s better to restrict the capability of machines than to properly train their operators. (See: speed limits, gun control, the OSHA.)

    Oh, Jack, not that I disagree with you, but this is asking for trouble.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    A few years ago near here a NY State cop was chasing a racing bike in a Tahoe. During the chase he lost control and rolled the vehicle (gee what a surprise) and was killed. They tried and got a murder conviction for the young man driving the bike. Strangely too many people for my comfort people agreed with that verdict.

    High speed pursuit in a Tahoe is more suicide than murder.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      +1

      The very idea of Tahoe (the high CoG GM SUV, not the lake in Nevada) and “Police Pursuit Vehicle” in the same sentence makes me cringe.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      I’m familiar with this story. IIRC, a group of race bikers, including the young biker involved with the cop fatality, had baited cops before (which was Very Dumb Behavior). So these guys were known. But the plan was high speed pursuit. In a Tahoe?!?
      And so two young lives were ruined, cop and biker. Although murder was a bit much for the biker. He would have been better off selling kilos of meth to the State Police.
      (Whiskey Tango Foxtrox) ^ 10.
       

  • avatar
    K5ING

    If I ran the world (or at least police depertments), here are a couple of things I would do.
     
    One… cops can drive faster than surrounding traffic, but no more than 20mph.  There is nothing scarier than doing 50mph and having a cop pass you at 100.  They come up so fast that you don’t hear them.
     
    Two…cops would be able to go through red lights, but only after coming to a stop, or near stop first.  Blasting through red lights at 70mph is not safe no matter what.  What’s worse is that innocent drivers that get t-boned in these situations usually get ticketed for “disregarding an emergency vehicle”.  As fast as the cops go, and as quiet as cars are, you don’t hear them until they hit you.
     
    Three… don’t chase for traffic violations.  Use the radio.  Period.
     
    Four… invest in some small hocky-puck sized GPS transmitters that attach magnetically to the perp’s car.  Many chases start after the cop has already pulled someone over.  Make it policy that every time a cop makes a stop, he attaches the magnetic GPS “puck” to the trunk as he walks up to the car, turns it on, and leaves it there while he talks to the driver.  That way, if something happens to the cop, or the perp guns it and tries to get away, there is already a tracking device on the car so he can be tracked.  After the stop is made, the cop removes the puck and turns it off. Sure, the perp and take the puck off if he knows that it’s there, but most of the time he’s too busy driving to stop, get out, and remove it if he even knows it’s there to begin with.
     
    BTW, if anyone reading this comes up with the GPS Puck, I want a cut of the profits!
     

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      It’s not a “puck” but:
       
      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101008/03035211331/guy-finds-fbi-tracking-device-on-car-posts-pics-online-fbi-shows-up-demanding-it-back.shtml

    • 0 avatar
      K5ING

      That FBI tracking device is old, and made for long term tracking.  What I’m thinking of is something that can be carried on the belt, small (probably smaller than a hocky puck actually), and using cell-phone technology to transmit back to the station.  Any time it’s turned on, it will show up as, say, a green dot, on a screen being monitored at HQ.  If that device moves while it’s on, it turns into a red dot and tracking starts.  Powered by replaceable or rechargeable batteries, it would have enough power to last a few hours while turned on, which is all that would be needed. My point is that it’s better and safer to track instead of chase.

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      They could stick a cellphone to the car and even have it set to “call home” on demand so you could hear ambient audio and maybe even pics/video in addition to the GPS tracking. Off the shelf tech for the win.

      A specialized device could certainly be crafted, but would probably be orders of magnitude more expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Garmin already makes such a GPS device except it broadcasts via bluetooth.  They would just need to change the transmitter to something that can be heard 3-5 miles away.  And probably beef up the magnet just in case.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    More Cop BS.
    I did the same once, after I’d had it with Indiana State Police.  The stretch between Chicago and Michigan is notorious for low limits and draconian enforcement (IL and MI drivers pay up!).  There were times in 20 minutes I’d see 8 cruisers waiting for speeders.
     
    But one day, it was over.  I was doing 60 in a 55, and a cop goes by me at a good clip.  No lights, nothing.  Fine.  Probably dumb, but I was so sick of watching these Mofos do this all damn day while the rest of us better not dare cross 60, so I jumped in behind him.  Kept to the right, kept my distance, just paced him.  If he was going to be able to drive that much over the limit, then I was too.  Mostly did 75-80mph for about 15 minutes…..at which point he pulled into the median, stopped, and got in position to nail some folks doing 61 coming from the other direction.
     
    Its a total joke at this point.  These guys aren’t there to keep the peace, or to serve the public, or to even make a difference in dangerous driving, they are there to generate revenue at ungodly rates for going 6mph over the speed limit on roads where the limits are set too low.  As far as I’m concerned, they can kiss my rear.
     
    I agree on graduated licensing.  I’d participate, if it meant we could loosen up these limits a bit, and really drive as fast as the vehicles, traffic, and roads allow.  Its ridiculous that the speed limit in a country like the Netherlands (crowded) or Switzerland (windy/steep) is 75mph, and in far more dense European countries 80mph, yet in BFE Washington state, I have to do 70mph, or 75mph in Montana.  Europe, more traffic, Montana none for miles, and yet I have to drive slower there.  Where is the logic in that?  Not to mention, the size of our country is exactly the type of place where you can shave HOURS off your day if you were allowed to go faster.  And we have the fuel prices that would allow us to do it without breaking the wallet.  75mph across Montana, 9hrs 25 minutes.  90mph= 7hours 50 minutes.  Hell, why not 100? 7 hours 5 minutes.  That is a significant time savings.  What’s the big deal if trained?  And if we are going to keep 70 or 75mph, then why in the world is it “dangerous” and a multi hundred dollar offense to go 6mph over?
     
    Such a joke.  The speeds and the cops that enforce them.
     
     

    • 0 avatar
      TexasAg03

      It’s ridiculous to say that all cops are a joke just like it’s ridiculous to say all Jews are greedy or {insert stereotypical statement here}. Yes, there are some who fit your description. However, I think most of them are trying to do their job the best they know how.
      I agree with you about speed limits. I think part of the reason in this country is simple politics and the entitlement mentality. Driving is a privilege, not a right. It should be taken more seriously. A driver’s license should cost more than a fishing license. People should be better trained and held to a higher standard.

    • 0 avatar

      TexasAG,
       
      That’s a poor analogy. Not all Jews choose to be Jews, that’s just who their parents were (well, mothers, but I digress). 100% of cops choose to be cops.
       
      Is there really any question whether or not the job of being a LEO attracts both people who like exercising authority and people who suffer ego injuries when they perceive (often wrongly) that their authority is being questioned, or when their own actions that exceed their legal authority are questioned?
       
      I know someone who is a court master in the Michigan courts. He has both a law degree and a medical degree, with practices in psychiatry and law. He told me that too many of our cops have a prison guard mentality. In a prison, guards must regard every perceived challenge to their authority as a lethal threat. Too many LEOs have the same perspective, sadly. They think they’re the guards and that we’re the prisoners. They think that being a cop gives them special privileges, not special responsibilities.
      Add the 20-80 rule for any job, 20% of the people do 80% of the work and the rest either stand around or are incompetent or dangerous doing that job.
       
      Add the particular temptations of being a cop (graft, stealing evidence, blow jobs from hookers, etc.).
       
      Add the fact that cops are among the very few people who have any power at all in terms of messing up someone who has given them attitude. Think about it. In the course of our daily lives, how many of us can exact any kind of revenge on anybody that makes our job harder? I suppose that judges can, and gov’t bureaucrats too, but then cops are uber-bureaucrats who can take away your property and your liberty.
       
      And cops indeed are uber-bureaucrats. Cop pensions are helping to bankrupt cities, counties and states across America. Cops are also among the biggest abusers of disability pensions, double dipping and the like. They’re the DMV with a badge and a gun and when budgets need to be cut they’re the first to start using scare tactics with voters – or just run their own handpicked candidates.
       
      Don’t tell me that cops deserve 90% pensions when retired military, people who genuinely put their butts on the line for us every day, only get 50%. Speaking of butts on the line, though being a cop is more dangerous than working in an office, it’s far from the most dangerous job. It actually barely makes the list of the ten most dangerous jobs at #10.
       
      If you ever want to annoy a cop, tell him that he’s a public employee who works for you, and then tell him that your garbageman has a more dangerous job.

    • 0 avatar
      TexasAg03

      Is there really any question whether or not the job of being a LEO attracts both people who like exercising authority and people who suffer ego injuries when they perceive (often wrongly) that their authority is being questioned, or when their own actions that exceed their legal authority are questioned?

      There’s no question that the job attracts people like that. The problem I have is with people who say that all cops are like that. I guess all doctors are in it only for the money. I know for certain that is not true just like all of the cops I know well are not in it for the power.
      I just get tired of hearing those kinds of statements. They’re not true for all cops and I would say they’re not true for most cops. I’m sure that, in certain areas, there are exceptions to the rule.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’ll weigh in here only from what I’ve learned over the last few years. Too many officers, indeed, aren’t trained how to drive in these circumstances. Case in point: Locally, last year there was an officer who crashed his cruiser into a tree answering a call and almost killed himself. The road had a nasty turn that he should’ve known about, and it wasn’t his first wreck, either.

    Having powerful vehicles coupled with young officers who are on a power trip, itching to use their weapons and otherwise over-reacting to any given situation is not a good mix. Add to that the increasing aggressiveness of perpretrators and the general lack of civility in society and viola”! A recipe for disaster, certainly.

    A friend of mine gets a kick out of watching KCAL (a TV station in Southern California) on-line that regularly airs police chases and archives them for their “entertainment” value on their website.

    Look at many of the police personnel you see – what a stereotype – shaved head (or nearly so), mean-looking attitude, Robo-Cop wannabees! The others are older - many seriously overweight, very few in between that would qualify as a well-known “neighborhood policeman” that one used to respect purely from a human standpoint, and not unreasonably fearful that you may give him (or her) a reason to club you over the head or Taser you for the fun of it.

    A sad commentary of the times we live in, that’s for sure.

  • avatar
    Anonymous Coward

    Ummm, you guys do know that cops do more than just issue traffic tickets, right?  Radios are great for chasing down a speeding car, but I’m not sure they’re particularly useful for responding to a home invasion, a knife/gun/fist-fight, a bank robbery, etc.  I’m not saying that cops should be given tools and not trained in how and when to use them.  I’m just pretty skeptical that the answer to cops not knowing how to drive fast safely is to take away the ability for them to drive fast at all.  Training them properly is.

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      Crown Vics are far from the fastest cars on the road and almost any car can and will do >100mph. Acceleration from V6 powered vehicles eclipses that of V8′s from the 90s in almost every case.

      Training is always a good idea and more of it never hurts, but it needs to be meaningful training and not some day course on autocrossing (see post above). 

      The greatest obstacle to their response times is traffic and road conditions. How will more a specialized vehicle with more horsepower fix that?

    • 0 avatar
      twonius

      Yeah but even with a siren there are limits to how fast they can safely move through traffic.. Giving  them more engine than brake and handling is asking for trouble. Of course  they’re going to drive  the car at it ‘s limits when life and death are on the line. If you gave them Z06′s they’d probably just crash more and not get there any faster.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      but I’m not sure they’re particularly useful for responding to a home invasion, a knife/gun/fist-fight, a bank robbery, etc

      Paramedics respond to calls that are, almost to a fault, more life-threatening than anything police respond do, and they do it in a much slower vehicle and at lower speeds.  Ditto for fire departments.

      Jack’s point is that the police could drive safer and arrive in the same amount of time.  By extension, having vehicles that can go fast and can take a pounding without damage do nothing to deterr recklessness until it’s too late.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      No, I’m pretty sure the primary police duty is to generate revenue in one way or another.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    Back in the early Eighties, I took a college criminal justice class in Buffalo. Our guest speaker, the Erie County Sheriff was getting heat from his deputies because he’d just de-commissioned the 440 V8 Dodge Monacos in favor of wimpy 5.2 Diplomats and even K-cars. They complained, “how do we stop the bad guys?” His answer: “use your radio, dummies.” While the horsepower came back, the driving skill to match it simply isn’t there. No one except the “elite” officers with that kind of driver training should have 400-hp V8 sedans.
     

  • avatar
    HalfMast

    What would happen if you took all the extra cost spend on “police-grade” vehicle add-on’s and HP upgrades and spent it on proper driver training?  Give 3/4′s of the police force a Fusion or Escape (or equivalent GM/Chrysler product) and they’d still have the speed they needed to get to urgent calls or run down pedestrians, etc. without any problems.  Spend the money saved on better training for everyone and to quaify the best 25% of your force for high-powered cruisers. 

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Performance based policies in many police departments are often held hostage by union rules that would make a UAW steward blush.
      That said, there are departments that ‘get’ the cost / benefit equations of high speed chases.
      @ Mr Schreiber above:
      Police pensions are under control in many (red-ish) states. Others, like NY and CA, will require a fed bailout or a bankruptcy* haircut.
       
      * States can’t go bankrupt under current federal law. So federal law will have to change.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I am opposed to anything that hurts the future of the Chevy Caprice.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Just like any other car it should match the driver’s training, experience and skill.

  • avatar
    JimC

    A few years ago the City of Gulf Breeze, FL (infamous for zealous traffic enforcement) resorted to letting ordinary citizens drive police cruisers around town for traffic calming.  IIRC, about all these were allowed to do was use drive and use the radio.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

  • avatar

    The level of training varies by department. Highway Patrol officers usually receive more extensive driving training than do local county and municipal officers. If a state trooper claims to be an expert driver I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. If a county mounty of city cop makes the same claim I take it with a grain of salt. Maybe he is, but them again, maybe not.

    A few departments do require additional training for officers assigned to more powereful vehicles. I know the Florida Highway Patrol has a special class for officers who will be driving Hemi Chargers. This is nothing new. In the past similar classes were required for FHP officers assigned to drive Mustangs and Camaros.

  • avatar
    martin schwoerer

    New Isobell Campbell? Cool! Hopefully better than the somewhat somnolent new Belle & Sebastian?
     
    Oh yeah, cops driving cars was the topic. Here’s an interesting piece of information I read on Tom Vanderbilt’s blog. What’s the most frequent cause of untimely deaths among police officers? No, not gunshot, and also not suicide. Traffic accidents is what kills most often.

  • avatar
    Sackajacka

    This is a picture of a Garmin GPS history log showing the top speed of a police Tahoe K-9 unit.  It was hard wired to the dash, and presumably the top speed was recorded in that vehicle, not another.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/61286428@N00/5118357674/

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      I drove around for a while with my Garmin showing a “Max Speed” of 466 mph. It routinely claims figures in the low hundreds on trip where I never exceeded 65. As it has aged, it seems to have become more prone to such things.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Yes cops are often terrible drivers, I personally know an officer who darn near killed herself because she pulled a u-turn to follow a suspect without looking ahead in the other lane at all, and got completely ass-packed. Cops have a tendency to be way too careless with all their ‘toys’ – perhaps its the arrogance of power, just look at the ridiculous over use of tasers since they have become standard-issue.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    About a month ago my wife and I were out for an evening walk. A couple of local jackasses, err police cars drove by us. They were probably going 60 mph in a 25 mph zone (main side street) with their lights and sirens blazing. About 10 minutes later a police suv drove by at the normal speed. So, I’m sure it was sort of bust going on. The thing that really bothered me is that it happened during twilight and there was both a fair amount of pedistrian and vehicle traffic on the street. Of course if they would have hit somebody, they would have held that person responsible because that person should have been paying attention.

  • avatar
    geeber

    A few years ago I was driving south on I-81, near Harrisburg. A police car passed me at a high rate of speed. It was a police car from a municipality in West Virginia. I accelerated and matched his speed – about 90 mph. No lights flashing, no sirens blaring. He was simply travelling at 90 mph on a limited access highway. I followed him for about 10 miles, until I came upon my exit.

    I did appreciate the police escort that day, although apparently speed limits, much like taxes, are apparently only for the “little people.”

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Jack
    Be careful with your logic.  Your argument as applied to the cops applies with equal or greater force to the public as a whole.  How fast should cars be?  The Libertarian argument that ‘I should be able to do whatever I want as long as I don’t harm someone else’ doesn’t apply to speeding on public roads.  Risks you take generally do harm someone else.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      The key here is that the police are buying their cars with *our* money, not theirs. It’s therefore not entirely their choice what they should be allowed to drive.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Contrarian— similar story–A fellow I know was heading home after a few beers and was being chased by a patrolman. This was a gravel road and he did not recognize the patrol car. He did see the car sliding sidways and rolling over. He ,turned around and went back to offer assistence. The officer, unhurt, cuffed him. He spent the night in jail and had to pay for the patrol car.

  • avatar
    nonce

    Support the local police!
    Beat yourself up!

  • avatar
    thirty-three

    I used to have a problem with speeding police in my neighbourhood.  Two events happened close together in time: a traffic light was installed at a crosswalk, and a new Tim Horton’s (24hr donut shop) opened down the same street.  There is a curve in the road before the crosswalk that reduces visibility, so that part of the street has a 30 km/h limit.  Most people go 35-40 which is slow enough to stop safely if the light is red, but the occasional idiot going over 50 must slam on the brakes if they need to stop.

    I used to cross the street there everyday to catch a bus to school.  Can you guess which cars approached the red going too fast to stop before the crosswalk?  Every morning, just before 8:00 am, two or three cops would pass through on their way to Timmy’s.  They learned their lesson after a few sets skidmarks were put down.  Fortunately, I could see them before they saw me, so I stayed safely on the sidewalk.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    Little boys and their toys.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    There was a news report about the RCMP doing speed traps. They issued blah blah thousand tickets and operation ticket people was a success. It did note that they were looking for a “Eurpean Style Sedan” a “Supercar style sports car” and a croch rocket. They blew by the speed trap going over 230km/h. I guess the RCMP have a policy that they do not engage in a chase when speeds are that high because they did not chase them. So, moral is, if you are going to speed on the highway in Alberta….go really REALLY fast.

  • avatar
    StevenJJ

    Any excuse for the Liver Run:
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgY-Kd0Y1rE

  • avatar
    Incendia

    No doubt that many, perhaps most, law enforcement officers are not properly instructed in high speed driving.  How much training would be sufficient?  Curious about the driving training my brother received in the Iowa State Patrol Academy (the entire academy was 20 weeks long — longer than most), I asked — he had two full weeks of driving instruction.  I suspect that is significantly more than most officers in the country receive.  He also once informed me that driving at 100 mph leads to 7 MPG in his CVPI. :-)
    The argument against high speeds for law enforcement is usually a sound one.  But believing that “calling backup” is an acceptable replacement for driving at high speeds is often wholly inadequate in rural areas.  The entire state of Iowa has less than 300 troopers on the road.  (If you see 3 of them at the I-80 truck stop, you’re clear of everything except county.)  Most county sheriff’s offices have a small patrol staff, and most small towns (which is MOST downs in the midwest) have no police force of their own, depending entirely on the county and state patrol.  In responding to an accident or other life-threatening situation (hostage, shooting, etc), help could be 20+ miles away.  Granted, on rural roads you’re often more likely to hit a deer than another driver.  There is no fast and easy answer, but to have a hard-and-fast rule about how fast is too fast cannot be the right answer.

  • avatar
    H Man

    I almost replied along the lines of some fool crashing his Phaeton at much, much higher speeds but thought better of it.
    /oops

  • avatar
    skor

    Yesterday a Teaneck, NJ policeman was killed in a one car accident — he wrapped his Crown Vic around a telephone.  No witnesses, the PD claims he was not responding to any calls at the time.  The speed limit on that stretch of road is 35 MPH.  BTW, this particular cop was hired straight out of high school while his father was the mayor.
    Here’s a pic of the wrecked Crown Vic
    http://media.northjersey.com/images/102510teaneck.jpg
    Story here:
    http://www.northjersey.com/topstories/teaneck/102510_Teaneck_police_officer_dies_in_crash.html
     

  • avatar
    Italian

    In Italy the police have a special license to drive their cars and depending on the type of license you can drive a certain type of car. Faster ones have a license called “fast driving ” and the drivers have to do special courses. Also there are 2 or 3 lamborghini that patrol the highway and can be used for special cases such as emergency organ transport. The police officers who drive them have to take a further course and have a special authorization. In europe we drive faster than in the US. Speed limits are a bit higher…

    they usaly use Alfa 159 2.4 JTD it’s a 2.4 liter turbo diesel with 200 bhp 6 speed manual transmition. it’s a heavy car seeing all it has in it and its perfect for our high speed driving.
    Our speed limit is 130kmh (80mph) and on some highway its just been authorised to bring it up to 150 kmh (93mph) Speed that many don’t respect

  • avatar
    Not1ofUhasaclue

    You all sound like a bunch of anti-cop nut jobs…  Have any of you ever been in that seat? No, thats what I thought. If you have experienced life in the drivers seat of a Police car you would know that many times you can actually get through traffic faster without lights and sirens because you get far fewer retards, like as all you anti cop nuts, freaking out, stopping in front of you or driving totally erratic while they try to remember what they are supposed to do when a emergency vehicle comes up behind them.  

    While driving with lights and sirens people tend to freak out either thinking they are getting pulled over or  just being plain stupid.  Maybe 2 in 10 cars will actually pull over to the right and stop as the driving test instructed them to do. The rest stop right where they are at, stop right in front of the Officer or just keep on going while singing along with the radio not paying one bit of attention to the police car or ambulance behind them. Add the fact all the auto makers have made it a goal to reduce road noise and practically sound proof their vehicles.   If you’re acually paying attention you’ll hear the siren when the police car is right behind you. If you’re like the rest of the world listening to the radio while talking on the phone and eating you probably won’t notice till the emergency vehicle passes you.

    Sure some cops are horrible drivers but there are people everywhere in every profession that are horrible at parts of their jobs. 90% of cops are better drivers then most the popluation. Sure they get in accidents but when you are on the road 10-14hrs per day the risk of an accident are greatly increased. Remember even race car drivers crash and all they have to do is drive. Besides driving a cop has to  shoot, baby sit your kids, baby sit adults that act like kids, be a professional fighter, write reports and the list goes on…  

    Put lights and sirens on your car then try to make it though traffic to the location where your wife, kids or best friend is in a knock down drag out fight with a person that is intent on causing them harm.  Add the fact that there is at least one gun involvded in this fight and if your friend / family member loses control of it they will likely be killed… You’ll be driving as fast as you could to get there and I bet I’d have no problem following you in my personal car  since nobody is going to freak out and stop in front of me…

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Not1ofUhasaclue – well actually I have worked law enforcement… Have been that guy on calls rushing through traffic. And around here, most people DO get out of the way. Try a different region of the country. America is not the same coast to coast.


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