The car has a black snout, a compact midbody, low-slung windows and a squared-off tail. They don’t have bulletproof glass or eject buttons, but a lot separates a patrol car from vehicles civilians drive.
“This is your office. You put what you need in it,” said Dan Lane, a public information officer for the Gaithersburg City Police. He allowed the Gazette to rummage through his 2012 Dodge Charger with a V-6 engine.
“It has a much faster giddyap with a V-6 than with a V-8,” he said.
Officers typically carry first-aid kits, flares, a fire extinguisher, riot gear, extra gloves and a traffic vest in their cars, he said.
For Lane, the extra-special somethings in his car include peanuts, bottled water, extra gloves and cigars (not to be smoked in the car, he said) for when he’s off-duty. There is also a stuffed teddy bear with a yellow shirt that says “Masons Care” belted into the back of his cruiser with a bungee cord.
Masons donate teddy bears that police departments give to children who are victims of traumatic incidents, Lane said. His father gave him one of the bears when he was hired by the police force, he said.
The Montgomery County Police department has about 900 marked patrol cars, fleet manager Sgt. Bob Ravida said.
The fleet consists of Crown Victorias, along with Dodge Chargers, Chevrolet Impalas and Caprices, Ford Interceptors and, for officers in the K-9 unit, Chevrolet Tahoes and Suburbans.
The police buy models from different companies because of manufacturer recalls, Ravida said.
“We can’t take the whole fleet off the road. . . . It helps in a fleet of our size to have some diversity, so our operations aren’t impacted if we have a major safety recall,” he said.
Although the police cars resemble their civilian counterparts — the Interceptors look like Ford Tauruses, he said , the bones, innards and nervous systems are different.
The Interceptor, for example, has a 3.7-liter engine. “That’s not even available as a citizen” vehicle, Ravida said.
Engineers program the squad vehicle engine to respond to “pursuit-style” driving situations, which enables the car to accelerate harder and deal with sharp cornering.
Cruisers have larger brakes and steel wheels, making the car better able to handle curb strikes to avoid wheel and suspension damage, he said.
“If we used aluminum [for wheels] like in most cars, we’d be replacing them all day,” he said.
Some cruisers also have a brace welded into the rear of the car, allowing the parked vehicle to withstand being struck by another car going 75 mph.
Most cruisers can travel more than 150 mph, Ravida said, but he asks for an automatic speed cutoff of about 130 mph from manufacturers.
“To protect our officers, we don’t let them go over 130,” he said.
Cpl. Kevin Marston, a mobile systems manager for MCPD, handles some of the specialized electronics that go into the squad cars.
There’s a mobile video system with forward and rear-facing cameras, along with a camera box in the trunk. And there are e-tickets, a scanner and a printer, which allows officers to issue tickets during traffic stops.
Ravida said he adds emergency equipment to patrol cars, such as light bars, sirens, siren boxes and radios. Vehicles also have a special center console, a mobile video system and a rugged Panasonic Toughbook laptop.
The total price tag for those items is $26,000 to $27,000, he said.
“Honestly, we spend a little more on the equipment than we do on the car, when you include labor,” Ravida said.
Fresh from manufacturers — before lights and all their other parts are added — the Ford Interceptor sedans run about $24,700, he said.
Other estimated prices are $27,200 for Ford Interceptor utility vehicles, $23,600 for Chargers, $26,700 for Chevrolet Tahoes and $26,900 for Chevrolet Caprices.
The most expensive is the Suburban, which runs about $36,380, he said.
“If you tried to buy one as civilian,” Ravida said, “you couldn’t buy it for less than $46,000.”