The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Police car



A London car
A London Metropolitan Police car

A police car, police cruiser, squad car, or patrol car is a vehicle used by police forces around the world to patrol, temporarily detain and transport individual prisoners. Use of the police car has largely replaced the tradition of constables in the UK (or patrol officers and deputy sheriffs in the US) "walking a beat" in most jurisdictions. A police car is also sometimes called a cop car.

Advocates of community policing have asked police departments to encourage constables to spend less time in their vehicles and more time walking the streets and interacting with the community.

Police cars are usually normal cars which are upgraded with a police package provided by the manufacturer. The police package often modifies the car to be faster than ordinary vehicles, to be able to out-run vehicles driven by criminals in chases, and to enable fast responses during emergency situations. This is usually accomplished by adding a more powerful engine, high performance suspension, brakes, and tires, and heavy-duty transmission and cooling systems. Additional special equipment may include modified electrical wiring, inoperable rear door locks and rear windows, and other heavier-duty components. These components not only increase performance but also increase the car's longevity. It is because of this reason that many taxis are based very closely on police cars.

With the advent of highways and motorways, special patrols have been established to monitor traffic offenses as well as engage suspects in flight. The latter often results in police chases which have been criticized for putting uninvolved motorists and pedestrians at risk and have also been dramatized in television programs and movies, particularly action films as well as comedies.

Police cars may either be marked or unmarked, to catch suspects unaware. Marked cars will have reflective decals and the word police on them to clearly mark them as police cars. They usually have a light bar on top with red and/or blue lights and sirens. Unmarked cars will be devoid of any visible markings or equipment which can identify it as a police vehicle, making it appear identical to a regular car of the same model. The siren will be hidden and the police lights are placed behind the either the windshield or grill and back window.

In film and television police cars are almost always portrayed as containing a team of two police officers so that they may converse and interact on screen. In reality most districts have only one police officer per vehicle.


Just the presence of a police car, without active enforcement, can be a visual reminder of traffic laws. At high speeds, motorists may not even notice whether or not an officer is inside. In 2005, Virginia's legislature considered a bill which provided, in part[1]:

Whenever any law-enforcement vehicle is permanently taken out of service . . . such vehicle shall be placed at a conspicuous location within a highway median in order to deter violations of motor vehicle laws at that location. Such vehicles shall . . . be rotated from one location to another as needed to maintain their deterrent effect. . .

Current models of police car used in the United States

See also

External links

Last updated: 05-17-2005 03:45:10