Sergeant Michael Marchand of the Oak Bluffs police turned on to Sea View Avenue, switched on the Interceptor’s flashing lights, and gave a quick burst of the siren. Cars on both sides of the road pulled over as he accelerated past Ocean Park toward Harthaven.
“We don’t leave the siren on unless we have to,” he said. “Especially in a residential area.”
Moments later he pulled up behind an old Honda and another one of the police department’s three brand-new cruisers. He got out and spoke briefly with his fellow officer before returning. “It’s an old-timer. He was going 20 over,” he said, turning off the lights and returning to the road. “We get that a lot, no one goes 25 in Harthaven.” The two cars in front of him, however, went a solid 18 mph all the way back to Oak Bluffs.
Every three years, the Oak Bluffs police department gets new cruisers. The bill is not paid by taxpayers. Last month, two SUVs and a sedan, outfitted with the latest law enforcement technology and restyled for nighttime stealth, joined the fleet.
The new cruisers are sleek, with concealed lights and a gray-black paint job replacing the standard blue with fluorescent stripes.
“They’re hard to spot,” said Sgt. Marchand. “I work with these cars every day, and I still won’t notice when I drive by one. You can’t tell they’re cruisers at night.”
He expects that the Oak Bluffs police department will see a change in its statistics. “There will be more speeding tickets and drunk drivers pulled over,” he said.
The 2013 Police Interceptors, manufactured by Ford, are the new gold standard for American law enforcement, replacing the iconic Crown Victoria.
Officer Jermaine Mendez handled the purchases. “The platform car is no longer in production, and Ford makes a good car,” he said. “The all-wheel drive is important on the Island. We didn’t have that before.”
The combined bill for the three Interceptors was $104,000, not including a few thousand dollars for updated technology. The bill was paid entirely by the Ambulance Reserve Fund. The fund, which supplies the Island ambulances and other government vehicles, receives $1 million each year in payments for off-Island transports.
The Interceptors are outfitted with bulletproof doors, advanced airbags, and reinforced construction capable of withstanding a 75 mph rear-end collision. New features also include increased power and efficiency, with a faster zero to 60 and a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy that will cut the town’s expenses. The efficiency results from the car’s ability to switch from six cylinders to only two when the car is stationary, important for cruisers, which spend lots of time idling.
Some of the Interceptors’ best new features are electronic, and they make evading law enforcement almost impossible. “These cruisers have video cameras that zoom right up on your license plate hundreds of feet away,” said Sgt. Marchand. “And they have rear radar, so if you speed up after you pass me, I can switch to that and catch you on the backend,” he said.
There’s 24/7 audio and visual recording, crystal clear and uploaded to the police department’s servers when a cruiser returns to the station. When an officer turns on the cruiser’s flashing LED lights, the system creates a highlight in the recording that begins 30 seconds before the lights are activated, recording a full account of pullovers and other events, encouraging police and driver responsibility.
And, the Interceptor’s computer uploads and processes registrations instantly, an improvement on the previous fleet.
“We had broken hard drives and connectivity problems all the time,” said Sgt. Marchand. “There was ineffective data transfer and duplicates of visual recordings.”
The new cruisers also have remodelled rear interiors. “People used to shove drugs in the back seats,” he said. “Now it’s just one piece of molded plastic.”
Sgt. Marchand was obviously delighted with his department’s new rides. “I’ve had two car chases in 23 years, there’s maybe one or two chases on the Island each year,” he said. “The technology on these cruisers is incredible. There’s no escape.”