Since 2012, Massachusetts State Police (MSP) has implemented several initiatives to make officers more visible and increase officer safety at night.
Sergeant Paul Fernandes noted that most officers wear black or dark blue uniforms that are nearly invisible at night. Although MSP officers wear light blue shirts, it still does not help drivers see them once it gets dark, and this risk is even higher when parked along the side of the road. The agency turned to vehicle visibility to improve officer safety.
Improving Police Vehicle Visibility
The initiatives started with vehicle graphics. Fernandes said MSP’s colonel went on a trip to Europe and noticed the amount of reflective blue and green graphics on patrol cars. The agency installed chevrons on the back of its Police Interceptor Utility vehicles, facing out like arrows.
Next, the agency looked into replacing its light bars. MSP uses blue light bars, and a common complaint was that the light bar’s brightness was a distraction in itself. Fernandes noted that, as LED technology became the norm, vehicle lighting became significantly brighter. Unfortunately, this can be a strain on the eyes for motorists stopped on the side of the road.
To solve this problem, MSP worked with a local manufacturer to find a solution. It’s new light bar uses a steady burn – in which the blue light flickers at a lower intensity when parked at a traffic stop.
“It’s bright, it flashes, and when you go to a call it’s as bright as any other cruiser out there. You can see us as far away as anybody else. But what it does is, once the officer puts it in park, it automatically dims down,” Fernandes said.
Dealing with Critics
Massachusetts State Police has been around since 1865, and making any changes to the agency’s signature two-tone patrol cars brought backlash. Officers also voiced their concerns, noting that civilians will be able to see them coming from a mile away.
Although faced with some pushback from officers in the beginning, Fernandes said he now receives positive feedback from officers, and several neighboring agencies have adopted similar initiatives to improve officer safety.
“It’s always something that comes up with police officers, and especially highway patrol. We get in more car accidents than we do shootouts,” he said. “I don’t have any statistical data right now to say, ‘hey, it saved X amount of lives,’ but if it saves one guy, I’ve done my job.”
Special thanks to 329 Marketing for contributing to the article.