“Don’t run from Jefferson County deputies,” Jeffco Sheriff Ted Mink warns with a chuckle.
That’s because the department is deploying the fastest, most technologically advanced patrol car on the road, according to Rusty Hardy, Jeffco fleet manager.
Hardy, an 18-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, said Jeffco is the first law enforcement agency in Colorado to introduce the 2013 Ford Interceptor into its fleet.
“This is the fastest police car on the market today, Hardy said. “It’s faster than the new Dodge Charger; it’s faster than the Chevrolet Caprice. But the most important thing is that this is an all-wheel-drive vehicle.
The new vehicle offers a host of features that launch it past its predecessor, the Ford Crown Victoria.
“The Crown Vics, the current standard workhorse of the industry even with snow tires do not do well in the winter, Hardy said. “And while this doesn’t have the ground clearance to replace an SUV like an Expedition or full-size SUV, it’ll make a huge difference in our response times in the winter when it’s snowy or icy.
The Interceptors are loaded with hundreds of performance and safety features.
The Interceptor is equipped with a 3.5-liter twin turbo V6 with direct fuel injection that delivers 365 horsepower. Despite being a much shorter vehicle than it predecessor the car weighs 4,100 pounds, about the same as the Crown Victoria it does achieve slightly better fuel economy than the older vehicles. While the fuel saving might seem small, the savings actually add up with the number of miles that Jeffco’s officers log in a given year.
“It’s only 2 miles per gallon more, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But we drive 360,000 miles a month, 4 million miles a year, spending about $1,100,000 on fuel. So 1 or 2 miles a gallon for us makes a huge difference, Hardy said.
The car features a rear-view safety camera that engages when an officer puts the vehicle in reverse and displays in the rear-view mirror. The cameras are color in the daytime and switch to infrared black and white after dark. The cars also have a reverse-sensing radar system that alerts officers to obstructions in the rear. The cars come equipped with blind-spot monitoring that alerts officers to traffic near the vehicle.
Another safety feature includes active suspension control, which individually applies each anti-lock brake and controls the throttle. The Interceptor’s throttle pedal is computerized, with no linkage from the pedal to the fuel system. In the event of sliding or other dangerous conditions, the car’s inertia sensors take control of the throttle even if an officer has his or her foot to the floor.
Of all the police cars on the road, the Interceptor is the only one that has been tested (and passes) the 75-mph rear-end crash test, according to Hardy. He notes that officers are far more likely to be involved in rear-end crashes than a civilian driver.
The rear windows on the car have polycarbonate window inserts with vertical slots in them. This allows the officers to lower the outer glass windows, enabling officers or investigators to safely interview detainees.
The Sheriff’s Office has purchased 20 Interceptors and will put them in service as the Crown Victorias reach their 100,000-mile limit. The department rotates old vehicles out of and new ones into the fleet every five or six days year-round, Hardy said. It will take about three years for the department to convert its fleet over to the Interceptor. Currently, the department has five Interceptors patrolling the county.
Each car costs $28,400 about $4,000 more than its predecessor, according to Hardy.
“For that you get a much safer vehicle and an all-wheel-drive vehicle. These have eight air bags. These have driver and passenger air bags. These have seat-cushion air bags, which they call kidney air bags,” Hardy said.
The cars also have side-curtain and knee-bolster air bags, which prevent drivers from sliding under the dash in crashes.
The Interceptor has fourth-generation LED lights and has been retrofitted with rear-window lights that can be seen by oncoming traffic when a deputy has the trunk open during a traffic accident.
Power-adjustable pedals allow shorter officers to sit away from the steering wheel.
Another feature are door hinge tethers, which resemble thick seat belts, which prevent doors from bending and becoming damaged when an officer opens a door in high winds or exits in a forceful manner. A new white door wrap is used on the cars, which lowers painting costs for the department.
Department updating thermal imaging systems
The Jeffco Sheriff’s Office is transitioning away from its older FLIR thermal imaging system that can be seen on some of its SUVs.
The system is an unmistakable big black dome atop some Jeffco patrol SUVs. The FLIR thermal imaging detects infrared radiation emitted from a heat source to create a “picture,” which is displayed on a video screen.
The department first purchased the FLIR system in 2004 at a cost of $16,000 per unit. The units were useful to officers but were cumbersome (more than one were clipped by low-hanging obstructions) and limited to in-car use.
The Sheriff’s Office is transitioning to hand-held devices that are about the size of a moderate-size video camera. The new devices have 10 times the resolution and four times the distance than the older domes, said Rusty Hardy, Jefferson County fleet manager. The new devices cost about $3,000 per unit. The new devices allow deputies to see in the dark and snap photos of suspects on the fly. The department plans to put eight hand-held devices in service.
Chris Ferguson is a news editor for Evergreen Newspapers. E-mail story tips to email@example.com.