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Behind the Badge Patrol cars pack more stuff than the average sedan

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Posted: Monday, April 30, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:30 am, Mon Apr 30, 2012.

Our kids used to love watching the "There Goes a Police Car" VHS tape when they were little. Yes, VHS. The video was part of a series where "Dave" and "Becky" showed youngsters the ins and outs of a particular vehicle, like a plane or train. I see the parents of older teenagers nodding their heads right now.

Well, people see police cars driving around Lodi all the time and might want to know what's inside. From afar, the cars look like standard Ford sedans. Most folks figure we simply bought them at a Ford dealership and painted them black and white. There's much more to it than that.

The standard Lodi PD car is a Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor. They are already black and white when we pick them up at the dealership. They have a larger engine and sturdier frame than the ones they sell to the public.

The new cars are sent off to have the light bar installed on the roof. The bar is only about 6 inches high, but it contains very bright blue and red lights, blinking lights to the rear, and high-intensity white lights facing forward to illuminate the inside of car the officer has stopped after dark. There are also alley lights for lighting up what's on both sides of the car at night.

The cloth back seat is replaced with a heavy-duty plastic seat liner equipped with seatbelts for the arrestee. The seat is plastic because some people don't feel well sitting back there, and you can figure out the rest.

There is a thin metal barrier between the officer and the person in the back seat. The barrier has a plastic window behind the officer's head and an open screen to let the air conditioner flow to the back seat. The window keeps the arrestees from planting a little present on the back of the officer's head as they drive them to jail.

Thin vertical metal bars on the back doors allow officers to roll the windows down and let air flow into the back seat without giving the prisoner a chance to hop out and dash for freedom. That's actually happened in the past ... when the car was moving. The bars frustrate the guy who tries proving his manhood by kicking out the back windows of the car like he saw on a "Cops" episode, circa 1990.

The people at the city municipal service center put the door shield decals, vehicle number and letters on the new car. It's brought to the police station where the mobile computer is installed, including the keyboard and monitor.

Dispatch sends most calls and messages to the officers in the field via the mobile computer. The officers type their reports into the computer while parked on a city street instead of coming to the station. This helps them respond faster to calls for service. The officers can log onto the Internet, check their email, access the department's records system, run a license plate or driver's license number through the DMV, or see if someone is wanted, all by using the computer.

They also have Livescan in the car. It's a little fingerprint pad where they can verify if someone is telling them the truth about their name by having them place their thumb on the pad. The device runs the thumb print through the state system and tells the officer if the person's pants are on fire.

There is a lot of equipment wedged into a patrol car. There is an assault rifle and a shotgun containing bean bag rounds. The trunk holds flares, a spike strip that officers use to flatten the tires of a car fleeing the police, a fire extinguisher, plastic gloves, the computer's CPU, and rolls of that yellow "Police Line Do Not Cross" tape that everyone is so familiar with. There's even an extra car battery in the trunk to help power all of the electronics.

Some police cars have a system that automatically locates stolen cars in the area.

A few have moving radar that allows the officer to check the speed of cars coming at them or going away from them. The supervisor cars have a shield to protect the officers from bullets, and a wrap that they put around a prisoner who likes to kick people.

The patrol car is a cop's office for 10 hours a day. At the end of a shift, the vehicles are often handed off to another officer who is coming on duty. In essence, the patrol car is being used at least 20 hours a day.

They are what get the officers around town, going from a low-speed patrol to high-speed pursuit in seconds. Our officers rely on these highly equipped mini space shuttles to provide timely and efficient service to the people of Lodi 24 hours a day.

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