Managing a Police Fleet

Does Police Vehicle Testing Still Matter?

January 20, 2017

by Paul Clinton - Also by this author

Photo of Michigan State Police vehicle testing courtesy of MSP.
Photo of Michigan State Police vehicle testing courtesy of MSP.

It's nice to have options.

Ford's Crown Victoria Police Interceptor once dominated the American patrol vehicle landscape as a dependable rear-wheel-drive workhorse that could absorb the blows of a daily duty cycle. Today, law enforcement agencies can choose from an array of patrol vehicles, including six sedans, four SUVs, and six motorcycles. The market is now more varied than any earlier decade.

Public fleet managers must decide which vehicle to put in the hands of officers, and must weigh a multitude of factors to help the agency accomplish its mission. The evaluation usually begins at a familiar starting point.

Each fall, two law enforcement agencies put the vehicles through a battery of road tests and provide a mountain of data about their performance, braking, and vehicle dynamics. Law enforcement purchasers then use the reports from the Michigan State Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department as part of their procurement process.

The Michigan State Police has released its testing data of the 2017 model-year vehicles, while the L.A. Sheriff's most recent data posted to its website offers the 2015 model-year vehicle testing report.

Many of the current vehicles available for police work have been offered for nearly a decade or more.

Ford introduced its Police Interceptor sedan and Police Interceptor Utility as 2012 model-year vehicles. Dodge has been offering its V-6 Charger with a police package since the 2006 model year, and later added a V-8 Charger Pursuit. General Motors offered a pair of sedans, including its Holden-based Caprice PPV from 2011 to 2017, and its front-wheel Impala 9C1 in various versions from the 2000 to 2016 model years. GM first offered its Tahoe with Z56 police package for the 1997 model year; a pursuit-rated model arrived for 2015.

Recent model years have brought enhancements rather than overhauls to these established vehicle platforms, which raises the question about whether current vehicle testing results have the same impact they once did.

Fleet managers with agencies who have already chosen a suitable replacement for the Ford Crown Vic don't lean as heavily on the results, but that doesn't mean the testing should be ignored.

The testing is important because it creates a competitive environment that forces vehicle manufacturers to stay current with their police models by updating the vehicles. The testing also provides the most updated data for agencies that want to shift from one vehicle to another. Large police fleets often run a mixed fleet of sedans and SUVs, and are constantly adjusting their vehicle mix.

The testing programs can also provide an important laboratory for new and potential vehicle manufacturers, especially motorcycle sellers, who want to test out a law enforcement version of a retail vehicle to gauge interest. Over the years, Moto Guzzi, Victory Motorcycles, and BRP (Can-AM Spyder) have brought new options they eventually offered in the market. Tesla Motors is considering providing a police variant of its battery-electric Model S sedan for testing.

In light of all this, we salute the Michigan and California law enforcement agencies for continuing their annual testing. It's a valuable evaluation tool for a public fleet manager and it requires a tremendous amount of effort and staff resources to staff and execute. We hope it continues for many years.


  1. 1. Brian Reynolds [ January 30, 2017 @ 12:49PM ]

    The vehicle tests by these third party agencies are critical to many in the procurement process. Agencies are often limited in their interactions with manufacturers, suppliers, and vendors due to transparency requirements in the public sector procurement process. These tests offer an opportunity to attend, or view results of, independently developed criteria that can be accepted in the regulated environments.

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Author Bio

Paul Clinton

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Senior Web Editor

Paul is the senior web editor for Automotive Fleet, Fleet Financials, Government Fleet, Green Fleet, Vehicle Remarketing, and Work Truck. He has covered police vehicles for Police Magazine.

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James Crocker is director of fleet operations, overseeing purchasing, remarketing, and logistics for Merchants Leasing.

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