By on February 25, 2013

Some claimed yesterday that David Hester’s views of a government-issued Panther are more desired than his discussion of D.I.Y. engine mods. You ask for it, you get it today. How’s that for service? Also, be judicious with your comments about his prose. David may be a rookie writer, but he’s a seasoned cop, and he knows where to find you. In any case, I’ve seen a few police reports in the past, and Dave’s way with words definitely beats them all.

My cellphone begins to bleat a mere three hours after my head hit the pillow. I shake the cobwebs from my head and listen to an excitable 3rd shift sergeant inform me of a criminal act requiring the immediate attention of the Special Victims Section detective, yes, pronto, never mind the pre-dawn hours. Quick shave. Quick shower. Quick peck on the cheek of my sleeping wife. Then out into the cold for the forty minute drive from my home into the sleeping city.

My G-ride awaits, a 2007 Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptor in “Official Government Business” silver. My department assigns each officer a home-fleet vehicle and I’ve been driving this one for a little over 40,000 of its 89,000 miles. One of the last of the real Police Interceptors, it boasts the civilian interior upgrade, with mouse-fur covered cloth bench seats instead of vinyl, carpeting instead of vomit resistant rubber, and a CD player. However, in a surprise outbreak of fiscal prudence, whoever ordered the cars that year failed to check the box for the exterior upgrades, like chrome trim. It’s the best of both worlds: soft semi-luxury inside with the blacked out “move to the right” front grill.

It takes about 10 minutes to reach I-75 from my driveway. I accelerate down the entrance ramp onto the empty interstate and settle into the left lane at… a reasonable and prudent speed. The big Ford loafs, eating up the miles without drama, solid as the day it rolled off of the assembly line. The only other vehicles I pass are 18 wheelers, their drivers probably wired to the gills on coffee, No-Doz, maybe meth. All of them are on high alert, scanning the road ahead and behind for the Crown Vic’s distinctive headlight pattern in their mirrors. Tonight their vigilance is rewarded: there is a Bear out there and I spy more than a few quick flashes of brake lights, even though none of them are in my lane and I subsequently couldn’t care less about the lies in their log books.

As I approach the bridge that crosses the river separating my quiet, rural home county from the urban jungle I work in, traffic is picking up a little bit. Not much, but there’s four-wheeled traffic mixed in with the truck traffic, and as I cross the bridge I can see a few lingering in the leftmost lane. The police radio goes on as I enter my jurisdiction and I start the light show a few seconds later.

The disco lights do the job. The left lane bandits are shaken out of their trances and slide into the center or rightmost lane well before I arrive. There’s no need for the vulgarity of the siren, which would interrupt Sinatra’s request for one more for his baby and one more for the road. I reach my exit and the lights go off, rendering me all but invisible to the traffic rolling on beyond. The city is beginning to stir, with lights coming on as shop owners prepare for the first customers. Joggers are out, as are paper delivery… men. I don’t suppose there have actually been paper delivery boys for decades.

I pull up at the emergency room and park in the ambulance bay. There will be at least an hour of waiting until the victim is cleared by the doctors, followed by another hour of interviews. Sometimes the case will be legitimate. Those are draining, especially if it involves a child. More often the case will be a case of regret, an attempt to cover up infidelity, or even a dispute over prostitution services rendered. Those cases will be unfounded, pended and forgotten in short order, sometimes with false report charges against the “victim,” but usually not. I suppose that’s for the best. A city in which every rape report was legitimate would be a horribly dangerous place to live.

The sun is up by the time I finish the interviews, and I roll on into the office to get an early jump on my shift. The day will drag by. Maybe there will be a suspect to find in regards to the new case, maybe not. By the time the day is over, the paperwork, at least, will be in order. I’ll mount back up and drive back across the river, feeling the weight of the case and the responsibility of the job disappear as the Crown Vic’s wheels thump across the last expansion joint. Dinner awaits, perhaps a beer or two, and then a good night’s sleep. It will be another twelve days until I have to cover the on-call schedule for the unit again.

Another twelve days before another night flight.

David Hester is a detective with the Lexington, KY Police Department by day and night. He drove a Crown Vic for work, but “does not suffer from an overabundance of Panther love.” David is a Editor’s Choice Future TTAC Writer, just in case we ever drive through Lexington, KY.

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53 Comments on “Night Flight Of The Silver Ghost. An On Request Future Writer Story...”


  • avatar
    mikey

    Another good read.

    Note to Bertel/Derek. David is a keeper.

  • avatar

    That was awesome – I’m proud to say I voted for you.

    Did anyone else see that in their mind’s eye in film noir black and white?

  • avatar

    Thank God the cops for the most part drive these pieces of crap. Makes em easier to spot when I’m approaching 102 MPH on the Southern State Parkway.

    When I do get pulled over by cops with Charger Pursuit models, They usually let me go when I show them the Vortec V3 under my hood. I’e actually had 2 Cops let me off by LETTING THEM DRIVE MY CAR LOL.

  • avatar
    claytori

    David received one of my very few votes, based on that second paragraph. Keep at it, it will get better. This has some of the Naked City/Dragnet vibe to it.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Outstanding. Please see if you can take Jack on a ride-along sometime- seeing him process something bleaker than a simple matter of the heart would be an epic read.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Very nice just a man doing his job and a tool that helps him do it. I definitely want to here from Dave when they replace is Crown Vic someday, just to see how is new unit compares to his old.

  • avatar
    JSF22

    David, I blew past this story a few times before stopping to read it. I’m glad I stopped. Really great insights into cars, people, and your work. Thanks.

  • avatar
    abqhudson

    David Hester is a winner!

  • avatar
    olddavid

    You give me the feel of the cold and wet streets, the dread, and the antiseptic of the hospital in three sentences. Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald are smiling.

    • 0 avatar
      David Hester

      I gotta say, that compliment made my day. You guys are going to have to throttle it back a little to keep me from getting complacent. Need to stay lean, hungry, and insecure so I can suffer for my art.

      Seriously, thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        olddavid

        Amen. Somehow, I’m not concerned with your complacence. You deal with us humans at our worst, and seem to have maintained your empathy and dignity. As a writer of some note once said,” the Devil is in the details “.

  • avatar

    The curse of the analytical mind required by senior law enforcement officers is they tend to be very sterile story tellers. This is clearly not the case. Very enjoyable.

  • avatar
    west-coaster

    While most everyone seems to think that a fully decked-out marked patrol vehicle is one of the most menacing on the road, I beg to differ.

    Nothing screams “Some serious s*** is going down” like an unmarked Crown Vic or Charger, as depicted in the second and third photos. I work in Glendale, CA, and they have a batch of dark grey Chargers for (I believe) their gang enforcment unit. Steelies with poverty caps, tinted windows, low-key radio antennas on the deck lid, and all manner of red and blue LEDs tucked into the grill, the taillights, the parcel shelf, and above the sun visors. When I see one on a dark industrial street, lit up, and parked offset with its doors open behind some ratty BMW or Honda, I make sure to swiftly move past.

    Likewise, the LAPD’s SWAT team is made up of various officers who are at any given time spread throughout the city in unmarked silver Crown Victorias. When the call goes out, they roll in small clumps, often in horrible freeway traffic. The combined roar of their V8s on-and-off full throttle, the light show of flashing high beams and solid reds, and the frequent blips of “WHOOOOP-WHOOOOP…ARRRGGGHHHHHHHH” from the high-decibel sirens behind the grills cause even the most distracted motorists to move over at a rapid pace.

    The officers in those cars might not be out to write me a ticket, but nothing sends chills down my spine like the sight of an unmarked going into action.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I respect the author for listening to his readers, but at the same time I preferred is earlier story.

    The only Panther article I await is the one where someone tells me the reason why they’re so beloved by regular folk, but at the same time is willing to point out its flaws like short headroom.

    I will say that silver Vic looks pretty professional though.

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      I rented dozens of Crown Vics (and the Mercury and Lincoln siblings) over the years when traveling. At 6′-6″, I never found headroom to be an issue.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        My issue is more so getting in and out of them with headroom, plus while my head will fit there just isn’t much space between the rood and my forehead, not to mention the seats weren’t all that supportive.

        I’ll admit that I’m saying this in comparison to my own Volvo sedan, by normal standards the Crown Vics are tolerable I guess.

        Though theres no excusing the cost cutting with some of the later models, like that whole intake manifold recall while ignoring stories of steering wheels popping off and what not.

  • avatar
    hadrian762

    I loathe this style of writing, which always leads with I was (something) and then (something) which leads to (something). Please, grow up and write like an adult who is not so self-interested.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    So, what’s under the hood? 4.6? 5.4? How long are you going to be able to keep it and what does the City use as replacements now? Are they any good?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I say its a 4.6, fleet Vics are pretty similar to civillian models.

    • 0 avatar
      David Hester

      It’s the old reliable(ish) 4.6 that the Crown Vics have run since the week after Henry Ford retired or thereabouts. We tend to keep cars in the fleet for eight- ten years, depending on mileage. Having take home cars assigned to each officer instead of hot seating them shift to shift lets you keep them longer. This one probably won’t be auctioned off to the taxi companies until 2016 or later. I’ll probably get an upgrade, if you can call it that, to a Camry or Fusion before that and it’ll finish out its service with the PD as a BOI (Bureau of Investigation) pool car.

      We’ve been replacing the Crown Vics with mid- size cars for adminstrative and detective personnel for awhile now. Starting in 2000, we began buying Honda Accords and Nissan Maximas, along with a fewer unmarked Crown Vics. I actually had a 2005 Maxima until 2010. The transmission in it developed “issues” that couldn’t be figured out by the local transmission shop that made the lowest bid for service. After I spent about eight months driving a pool car more than I was driving the Nissan, I went to our fleet liasion manager and aske for the next “decent” unmarked Crown Vic that became available. This one was first assigned to an assistant chief who retired and I was able to snag it. The last batch of unmarked Crown Vics were purchased in 2009 and the word is that it’s all Camrys for detectives from here on out.

      For patrol work we’re going to the Taurus- based Police Interceptor with the normally aspirated engine and AWD. I haven’t driven one personally, but I’m scheming about how to get my hands on one for a TTAC review. It’ll require some departmental approval, but I’m working on it. The guys who’ve got them that I’ve talked to like them okay, but there have been a couple of plus- sized officers who turned them down to keep their larger Crown Vic a little longer.

      • 0 avatar
        Scribe39

        Nice job. I am retired now, but was mostly a career newsman. More years than I like to think about, I also served as a deputy sheriff here in Ohio. I look forward to your test — official or unofficial — of the new units. My department’s experience, decades ago, was that Chevrolets ran well, or not at all. The Fords would never quit, even if they were running ratty.

        I had the “honor” of being on the department for the last stick-shift cruiser, and of the period when the famed 390/330 Interceptor engines were the ones to have.

        • 0 avatar
          west-coaster

          Technically, the 1993 Ford Mustang SSP was the last “stick shift” cruiser, though with a pretty big “*” after it.

          • 0 avatar
            Joe McKinney

            The Chevrolet Camaro B4C was available with a manual transmission until 2001.

            Like the Special Service Mustang the Camaro B4C gets and asterisk. These cars were intended for use as highway patrol interceptors rather than as general purpose squad cars.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        I cannot wait for your Taurus Interceptor review David. I would welcome it if you could do the practical day in day out usability and also the performance side. I hope you get a chance to thrash it a little bit. I have been in the police Charger many times and find it to be cramped and claustrophobic compared to the Crown Vic, which I loved, but the performance is sweet since they fixed the brake issues and the officers I know have no complaints. They find it a hell of a lot safer to drive at high speeds, without a doubt.

        • 0 avatar
          AFX

          “I have been in the police Charger many times and find it to be cramped and claustrophobic compared to the Crown Vic”

          Is it just me or was anyone else thinking “front seat, or back ?” when they read that line ?.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I look forward to a review on the Taurus as well, and a comparison between it and the Vic to see if Fords fleet offerings have improved.

        The transmission issue with Maximas seems pretty common from what I’ve heard, mostly the CVTs.

  • avatar

    Good story. I always liked working with coppers who could write.
    Spent many a night in the wee hours behind the tiller of a Crown Vic when I was the night inspector.
    I also worked in SVU (We called it Sensitive Crimes Division) The work was incredibly rewarding and corrosive at the same time.
    Stay safe. Keep writing!

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I’m another reader who thoroughly enjoyed both your pieces, and I hope to read more.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    David ;

    First and formost : THANK YOU for wearing The Blue ! .

    Please ignore the tiny dick haters , they really don’t know any better .

    We at Motor Transport have a few Chargers , I am not impressed .

    Please keep right on writing , I too like the feel and sentiment of your style .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Another nice piece. I initially skipped it due to the Panther focus, but looked for it after reading Airbox of Lies. David’s experiences could add a lot to TTAC.

    As for the criticism of writing style, everyone has different taste. Some writing is grammatically perfect, but I find it awkward to read. Other writing flows well for me, despite the occasional mistake (which I don’t notice because it flows well). So far, David’s style is the latter.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    This is a nice article. Most people’s idea of police work is based on fictional T.V. or movie portrayals, or ride along shows like COPS which only focus on action-filled highlights. The reality is long hours of often very tedious work. Investigators waiting to conduct interviews. Traffic officers working accidents in the pouring rain. Lots of paperwork. Going to court on your day off, etc.

    I have some very fond memories of the Lexington area. In the mid-1990′s I was a seminary student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore. My classmates and I often drove up to Lexington to catch a dollar movie or to have dinner somewhere other than the school cafeteria. I think I still have a few books purchased at Joseph Beth Booksellers.

  • avatar
    noxioux

    Great read. You’ve just increased my desire for a Panther 10 fold.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Awesome article , great writing style and POV. Why the lack of chargers?

  • avatar
    xantia10000

    Really great writing – interested to read more in the future.

    One question though. You state: “I accelerate down the entrance ramp onto the empty interstate and settle into the left lane at… a reasonable and prudent speed.”

    What’s up with settling into the LEFT lane?!? Isn’t the left lane for passing only? Shouldn’t you be setting an example of proper driving? :)

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      Well, it sounded as though he WAS passing everybody.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I think proper driving is to stay in the left lane if you’re the fastest traffic. What would be the benefit in constantly changing lanes? You only need to get out of the left lane if someone approaches from behind.

      Don’t fear the left lane. About 50% of the people that pass me on an empty multi-lane highway are so scared of being in that lane that they cut in front of me within a second of passing me, forcing me to cover the brake or cut over to the left lane until they’re ahead a reasonable following distance. It’s ridiculous.

      • 0 avatar
        xantia10000

        No fear of the left lane at all! I use it to drive between 200 and 250 km/h on the Autobahn all the time. I love passing in the left and then moving one or two lanes over when done. It works pretty well… especially at night when there’s little traffic. And it also allows the rapidly-approaching 300 km/h Porsche 911 approaching from behind not to slam on HIS brakes :) I find it frustrating in America when everyone seems to stay put in the left lane, blocking others who might want to drive faster.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    I enjoyed the story and writing style. I’m glad that I voted for you and that Bertel picked you.

    Looking forward to more stories about cars and your line of work.


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