Where the rubber meets the Road

Michigan State Police Vehicle Tests offer decision-makers the numbers needed to help analyze law enforcement's 2010 model vehicles

   "It's been a long history of 35 years that [the program has] been doing similar testing," says Commanding Officer of the Precision Driving Unit Keith Wilson. He recently took over the testing program from 10 years experience as a driver.

   Looking at its long history, Wilson explains that the program had to decide which aspects of the vehicles and what testing parameters they had to set up in order to provide the most useful information. Yet, as the years progressed and industry technologies manipulated vehicle performances, testing had to adapt to the engineering. "Every once and awhile we'll tweak the program to provide additional information or to better reflect the actual abilities of each vehicle."

   However, he adds, "as far as the future goes, our testing remains on a steady course from year to year. There's nothing in the immediate future that needs to be changed or tweaked. Manufacturers and law enforcement agencies tell us that we are providing pertinent information to the community in order to help them make purchasing decisions."


   The tests are not done to discern a winner in the evaluations. By no means does any element of the program resemble a race. The only "winner" is the vehicle that best matches an agency's automobile requirement.

   Wilson looks at each aspect (acceleration, top speed, braking, and road dynamics) as part of the potential events of an officer's shift. It is understood that harmonizing the vehicle to the shift is imperative to efficiency, effectiveness and safety. He says that when someone thinks about a police officer in a high-speed emergency run or in a pursuit, those are the top of the list of items when it comes to deciding which vehicle to purchase.

   In analyzing the data, he suggests to compare the numbers from each vehicle. "We will never make a determination of which vehicle is best or which vehicle — some agencies say — 'won the test.' There are no winners or losers. We provide objective data that agencies can use to help them decide which vehicles they want to purchase."

   He adds that individual agencies should decide what is important to them. "Are they working in an urban environment where they don't need a top speed; are they working in a rural environment where greater top speed is necessary? It all depends on the mission each law enforcement agency has and they make a decision on what aspects of each vehicle are important for them."


   Recent announcements of the vehicle manufactures may affect the law enforcement vehicle market.

   • The Ford Motor Co., in a news article from the Kalamazoo Gazette (Mich.) Sept. 30, announced the halt of production of the Crown Victoria sedan after Sept. 2011.

   In the article, Wilson said, "We're confident that whatever Ford brings to the table as a replacement for the Crown Vic will be a quality product. They're very aware of the needs of law enforcement."

   He added that Ford told state police officials it plans to work closely with police agencies and aftermarket vehicle outfitters before 2011 to allow departments to purchase whatever equipment they might need for the new patrol vehicles.

   • In an article from the Associated Press, Harley-Davidson saw an 84-percent profit slide in its third-quarter.

   The article continues: "The motorcycle manufacturer also plans to stop making Buell motorcycle products and will sell its MV August division as it looks to concentrate efforts more on its namesake brand.

   "The Milwaukee-based company will sell off its remaining Buell inventory, including motorcycles, accessories and apparel, through its authorized dealerships while supplies last. Dealerships will continue to provide replacement parts and service Buell bikes, with warranty coverage continued as well. The line's closing will likely result in a $125 million one-time cost for Harley-Davidson, with approximately $115 million expected this year."

   It seems while crime continues, even this country's recession finds a way to bring some wheels to a screeching halt. It will most definitely be an interesting 2011 test program.

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