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Kanawha deputies impressed with new police cruisers

Lawrence Pierce
Capt. Sean Crosier of the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department shows off one of the department's new Ford Interceptor police cars, the first vehicle designed from the ground up specifically for police use.
Lawrence Pierce Sgt. L.S. Dietz is assigned one of the new cars. He said it's better than the department's current Dodge Chargers, and much better than the old Ford Crown Victoria.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ford is back in the police car business. And Kanawha County sheriff's deputies are impressed with the company's new Interceptor police cruiser.

"I think that they're better than the [Dodge] Charger. They handle great," said Sgt. L.S. Dietz, one of the first Kanawha County deputies assigned to the new car.

"It's like it's stuck to the ground," Dietz said. "It's great in the curves."

County officials recently bought 14 of the new Ford Interceptors at a cost of about $27,000 each. Four of the cars are on the road, with the rest to follow soon.

"If it's as durable as Ford says, it will be money well spent," said sheriff's department Capt. Sean Crosier.

From the 1990s and into the first few years of the new century, Ford had a practical monopoly on the police car market in the United States with their rear-wheel-drive police version of the Crown Victoria. Known almost universally to police officers as the Crown Vic, the car was rugged, fast and relatively safe in a crash.

Then, in 2006, Dodge came out with a police version of their fast and aggressive Charger. Sales of Crown Vics plummeted as police departments all over the country scrambled to equip their fleets with the new Charger.

"The Crown Vic was better in low-end takeoff," Dietz said. "When you hit 40 miles per hour, the Charger took off, and the handling was a lot better than the Crown Vic."

Happy with their new Dodge Chargers, Kanawha County stopped buying Crown Vics in 2007. Many police departments did the same thing, and Ford stopped making the Crown Victoria police car altogether in 2011.

But Ford engineers were already working on a replacement. The new Ford Interceptor is the first vehicle designed from the ground up specifically for police work.

Crosier said company officials consulted with major police departments all over the country to find out what officers wanted in a police car. Their wishes were designed into the new cruiser.

Crosier said the cars come pre-wired for computers, radios and other equipment, a $4,000 or $5,000 expense with previous cars. The cruisers are designed to share parts with Ford's police SUV, with parts like wheels and interior components common between the two vehicles.

The cars have extra-large brakes, are all-wheel drive, and have an engine designed to use less gas at idle and sitting still, where police cars spend a lot of their time. They're also designed to survive a 75 mile-per-hour rear-end collision.

"That's one of the more common accidents police officers are in," Crosier said.

Controls for lights, sirens and other equipment can be activated with buttons on the steering wheel, so deputies don't have to take their eyes off the road to fumble around for switches and knobs.

The car body even incorporates bulletproof panels. "We'll leave it at that," Crosier said.

Dietz said the new Ford handles better than the Dodge Charger, and much better than the old Crown Vic, which is a good thing, considering the speedometer is calibrated to 140 mph.

"The fastest I've had it is 110," Dietz said. "It's as smooth at that speed as it is at 40."

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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