When Frederick police Sgt. Jay Brown hits the streets in one of the department’s new 2015 Ford Police Interceptors, it doesn’t take long for people to notice.
“I’ve had a couple of people come up to me saying, ‘Man, those are sweet! Those are nice. I didn’t know Frederick Police Department could afford something like that!’” Brown said with a laugh.
The department’s budget allowed it to buy a total of 12 vehicles: six marked interceptors, four unmarked sedans and two SUV-type vehicles referred to as “utility vehicles” by Ford, said Lt. Joseph Hayer, who oversees the department’s fleet. While the vehicles, all of which are built loosely on the frame of a Ford Taurus, were hardly free, the department made the most of the funds available to it, Hayer said.
Each marked cruiser cost roughly $40,500 — which includes a plethora of added features such as light bars, electronic ticket printers, new radios and what Hayer referred to as “mobile data terminals.”
“Most people just call them laptops,” Hayer said. “The options for the cars and trucks are just endless; they’re absolutely endless. If we were talking a fully marked vehicle with all of the options, you’d be looking at probably $45,000 to $50,000. I mean, you can get roof racks, lit-up door plates, tinted glass ...”
Hayer recalled spotting one of the new sedans owned by another department, one that was fully decked out in top-of-the-line lighting features, while he was out of town on vacation. Rather than going for the flashy luxury package, Frederick police customized its cruisers, mostly with the safety of officers and residents in mind, he said.
“For example, we decided to put an additional corner strobe on our sedans,” he said, explaining that those strobes, together with the new light bars, were chosen to help make the cruisers more visible around tight city corners. “You want to be able to see us coming from a distance farther away so that you can react safely to an emergency vehicle.”
The all-wheel drive was another welcome addition to the Interceptors, compared with the department’s older Chevrolet Impalas. Coupled with a more powerful 3.7-liter V-6 engine and an electronic stability system that helps officers keep control of the cruisers, the new Fords are worlds above the front-wheel-drive Impala.
Whereas the Impalas were prone to “push” due to their front-wheel drive, the extra grip offered by the Ford tends to handle better in treacherous conditions, Hayer said. Brown was even more impressed with the stability control.
“What the Ford does is it recognizes the power that’s going to the wheels and, when you start to turn, it’ll prevent you from going into a power skid by reducing power from one set of wheels to another,” Brown said. “It slows you down to prevent you from going into a skid.”
Even the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, which relies primarily on the even more powerful 5.7-liter V-8 Dodge Charger Pursuits, knows the benefits of the Ford’s new Interceptors.
The sheriff’s office bought four of Ford’s UTVs and two cruisers with the new all-wheel-drive feature at the beginning of the year, said Jim Price, a retired Montgomery County officer who now oversees the sheriff’s office’s fleet.
“They’re outstanding. And then during the snow last year, [our deputies] were so impressed with them,” Price said. “In fact, one of the sergeants said, ‘I was thinking of putting a plow on one of them and making some extra money!’”
The new Fords aren’t without their drawbacks, however. Both Brown and Lt. Clark Pennington — who was assigned one of the four unmarked sedans as commander of the department’s Criminal Investigation Division — remarked that the bigger Taurus models can be hard to get used to.
Price also said the trunk space is limited in the cruisers, especially because the spare wheel is stored underneath the trunk, making it long but very shallow.
Still, Hayer said one of the biggest complaints he has heard from officers is that the department did not spend the extra $3,600 to install phone charging ports and audio jacks into all of the cruisers. As for the vehicles’ larger size, many officers like the extra room, he said.
“You have to consider that these cars are rolling offices with tons of equipment in them, and rotating personnel often working 10-hour shifts or more, so the comfort level is definitely noticeable in the new sedans,” he said.
Decked out with advanced radios, laptops, souped-up engines and some of the smartest assisted driving programs on the market, the newest additions to the department’s fleet stand ready to do more than turn heads, Hayer said.
“But that’s another bonus,” he said with a smile. “They really do look nice.”