As the man exited the hotel, his smile beamed. The speech went much better than expected, and the start of his tenure seemed to be looking up. It was a nice day. The the rest of his schedule was rather routine, but it was this speech that had posed some concern. It wasn’t his usual type of crowd.

The trip from the door to the car was short, only 30 feet, and the man felt confident as he covered the distance to his ride home. As he looked to his left, a mere 15 feet away stood a group of people, some with cameras. As a man used to cameras, he never found them threatening—he actually enjoyed having them around. Some in the crowd with cameras started shouting at him, and in a gesture to appease the crowd, he decided to wave. He raised his left arm high and gave them all a big wave.

That was the moment when someone in the crowd decided it was a good time to act. In a calculated move, he raised his rimfire revolver and pointed it at the unsuspecting man who had waved at him. In 1.7 seconds, the attacker unleashed six rounds at the man in a vicious attempt to make history. The story may have ended there if not for some quick reactions and the armored car nearby. Thankfully, President Ronald Reagan survived.

Cruiser Evolution

From the first police cars to today’s high-tech police cruisers, the need to design and build vehicles for law enforcement and security work has been tied in large measure to evolving threats. In the beginning, having a car and it being able to get from Point A to Point B were enough. It was better than walking or riding a horse, but those days have long since past.

Today, car companies in the U.S. and around the world have made a conscious effort to build cars from the ground up that can perform when put to the test. Sedans are the more popular option in cities. But SUVs are becoming the new norm in suburbs, rural areas and with VIP protection. The reason is similar to the reason everyday consumers are opting for these larger vehicles. They can carry more equipment, and they are often easier to enter and exit due to their higher ride height.

Helping bolster the case for SUVs, the performance of these vehicles is now on par with their lighter sedan counterparts, police say. “The LAPD is buying a larger percentage of SUVs than sedans,” said Sgt. Michael McCarthy of the Michigan State Police precision driving team, speaking with Automotive News. “They are very capable. They have a fairly short turning radius. They’re deceptively fast.”

Ford Interceptors

The Ford Interceptor police line of vehicles still performs as the name implies. The 2017 Interceptor comes in a Sedan and SUV option, plus specialty vehicles. The SUV is built on the Ford Explorer frame.

With all of these vehicles, Ford has added some police-specific technologies. To start, the lighting packages for the 2017 models include low-profile front interior visor light that gives the cars a stealth appearance. This interior LED visor light is fully integrated into the top of the windshield, giving each car a Knight Rider appearance. The interior LED dome light has a red/white option for night or daytime use. The rear spoiler has an integrated traffic warning system that provides enhanced visibility with its red/blue/amber lighting.

If an officer exits the vehicle, Ford makes sure the car will still be there when they return. A new feature prevents the vehicle from unauthorized use but allows the engine to continue running. An officer can remove the key from the ignition but keep the vehicle idling.

Enhanced Police Cruisers

An additional security enhancement is the global locking lever, which enables the door panel switches to lock and unlock all of the doors as well as the rear lift gate. This gives the officer one-touch control over all of the vehicle’s doors.

Another new security enhancement that could be the last line of defense for officers: Ford has placed NIJ Level IV-rated ballistic panels in the Interceptor doors. Ford says it was the first manufacturer to offer this up-armored protection—capable of stopping armor-piercing rifle rounds—for police officers.

Currently, Ford sells by far more SUVs than sedans to police forces. The automaker offers the Explorer-based police SUV. It also offers the Taurus-based police sedan, and both models sit on essentially the same platform and share key components, making each Ford a versatile officer safety platform.

Chevrolet PPV

Chevy is once again offering its Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV). According to General Motors, though, the company will cease production of the Chevrolet Caprice police sedan. Despite the Caprice PPV sedan being a top performer in Michigan and California police vehicle testing, the sedan has fallen out of favor as law enforcement agencies have begun to shift toward purchasing pursuit-rated SUV models.

The Tahoe PPV comes with a 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 engine with active fuel management, direct injection, variable valve timing and flex fuel capabilities for power and economy. GM says it is also the first automatic two-speed transfer case four-wheel drive pursuit vehicle, and the only full-sized, body-on-frame SUV built for extreme pursuits.

The PPV SUV also comes with a Bluetooth capability for hands-free connectivity as well as a rearview camera with rear parking assistance to maximize an officer’s awareness and visibility. GM includes OnStar 4G LTE coverage, and the car can be turned into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Finally, the vehicle has a heavy-duty, four-wheel antilock disc brake system with a heavy-duty, police-rated suspension.

According to GM, the company offers so many options that each department could build their SUVs from the ground up to get the exact vehicles they want. This could be helpful for agencies with tight budgets or specific missions.

Protective Platforms

Once the bullets left John Hinkley’s gun, the first struck White House Press Secretary James Brady in the head. The second hit D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty in the back of his neck. The third overshot the target and hit the window of a building across the street. The fourth round hit Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy in the abdomen as he spread his body to protect the intended target.

The fifth bullet hit the bullet-resistant glass of the window on the open side door of the armored limousine. The sixth and final bullet ricocheted off the armored side of the limousine and travelled along the limousine’s armor. Only then did it strike its intended target as Secret Service Agent Jerry Parr threw the president into the limousine.

President Ronald Reagan may have very well been the fifth president killed by an assassin’s bullet if not for the quick actions of the Secret Service agents and the protection offered by that limousine.

Last year, as President Donald Trump left the U.S. Capitol and began the Inauguration Day parade, he also had a new car. Informally known as “The Beast,” the vehicle was designed from the ground up to keep the president safe. It’s part of a long tradition of turning vehicles into tactical rides. This has allowed American law enforcement to make great strides with turning regular production-line vehicles into what many Americans see on the roads today—mobile, state-of-the-art police vehicles capable of protecting our best defenders. We salute these innovations.

This piece is from the August/September 2017 issue of Tactical Weapons Magazine. To subscribe, please visit

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