The days of the typical cop walking the beat in American city streets are long gone. Today’s police forces need to be mobile to combat crime, and they depend on automobiles specifically outfitted for law enforcement operations to get the job done.
The first police car was a wagon, patrolling the streets of Akron, Ohio, in 1899. It operated on electricity, had a top speed of 16 mph, and had to be recharged every 30 miles. With the advent of the combustion engine in cars in the early 20th century, police turned to the Ford Model T — one of the most iconic cars from history — beginning a more than 100-year association between law enforcement and the car company.
24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of cars that have been used as police vehicles. We used sources such as autowise.com, jalopnik.com, and sillman.com to create our list.
There are four types of cars law enforcement forces employ: A police car used for normal duties of officers that enables them to respond to emergencies; A response car that can go faster and has audible and visual warnings; A traffic car used to enforce traffic laws and regulations; A sport utility vehicle utilized for off-road needs that carries more equipment than a standard car and can transport K-9 units.
The vehicles police have driven have varied, depending on their needs and the financial resources of the municipalities they served at the time. The Ford LTD and Chevrolet Caprice were smaller cars, reflecting the reduced city budgets of the 1970s and 1980s. Durability was one of the features of the Dodge Diplomat, in service in the 1980s. High performance was crucial for combating crime, and starting in the 1980s police chose pursuit vehicles such as muscle car legend Chevrolet Camaro as well as the iconic Ford Mustang, immortalized in movies such as “Bullitt.” These are most iconic cars in film.
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