Agencies are finding alternatives to the squad car can help them navigate the community.

Scooters are another option agencies shouldn't overlook, particularly with today's sky-rocketing gas prices. "Scooters reduce response times to emergency situations and crowd or traffic control duty," says Bill Peirce, president and CEO of Cobra Powersports. "Because scooters are not much larger than a standard bicycle, officers adapt quickly, parking is as easy as a bike, and transporting them to special events is simple."

Meanwhile, an ATV can perform much of what a pickup truck can do — for a lot less money, says Glen Hansen, communications manager for American Suzuki Motor Corp.

"Maintenance costs are reduced, storage costs are reduced, and these more nimble machines can get to places larger vehicles cannot," he continues. "Beach patrol, for example, can be much easier on ATVs and the machines have less impact on the environment than a full-sized pickup truck or SUV often used by beach patrol."

Full speed ahead

Maybe an agency is already thinking that adding two- or three-wheeled machines to its fleet is a great idea. Or, perhaps it believe they wouldn't benefit their agency at all. Before it decides one way or the other, it is critical to consider the following:

  1. Look at the services it's currently providing, says Murphy. Does the department provide event security? Does it patrol parking lots? If so, how many, how often, and how large are the lots? Does it patrol malls and other large enclosed spaces?
  2. How are these being serviced? By patrol car? On foot? And if on foot, how many officers are being used? Maybe the job is taking up four officers, when one of these machines would allow it to get done with just two, says Murphy.
  3. Does it have a community policing program, or is thinking about establishing one?
  4. Consider the area's weather patterns, suggests Peirce. Does it have at least six months a year where it could use an open-to-the-elements mode of transportation?
  5. What are the licensing requirements, if any?
  6. What are the objectives? Reduction of fuel costs? Becoming more approachable by the community? Getting greener? Reducing officer fatigue? Freeing up patrol vehicles for other uses?

In many cases an agency will find the benefits these specialty vehicles bring to the department make them worth the investment. And soon a department may join the ranks of the growing number of agencies using ATVs, EVs, UVs and one-person carriers to get officers where they want to go.

Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelance writer based in Long Beach, California.

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