The mass adoption of SUVs in America is apparent almost everywhere, but no where is it more visible than in the nation’s police departments. The flashing red-and-blue lights now ride higher on SUVs more often than sedans now, and that’s not necessarily good news for police or citizens.
The New York Police Department is currently transitioning to an all SUV fleet, New York Magazine reports. It was an easy decision to make considering Ford, which builds police cruisers for half the departments in the country, no longer builds any car-body style vehicles beside the Mustang. Nowadays, police departments buy Ford Explorers modded to law enforcement needs called the Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid. The NYPD is using these until its order for 6,300 Ford Mustang Mach-E SUVs to replace all ICE police vehicles is filled.
Of course, the NYPD is not alone in adopting the SUV from NY Mag:
Since 2017, more than half of all police vehicles sold in the U.S. are cop-customized Explorers. The country’s next-largest department, Chicago, has jumped on the oversize bandwagon, with Ford relocating the factory to the city to build the police Explorers right there at home. Across the U.S., police departments large and small are retiring their last Crown Victorias in favor of new, often gargantuan, SUVs. An annual report by the Michigan State Police Precision Driving Unit, which tests new-model law-enforcement vehicles, tracks the trend: In 2010, two out of eight vehicles tested were SUVs, while in 2022, nine out of eleven vehicles tested were SUVs. Ford, which has contracts for more than half of the police vehicles in the country, doesn’t even make sedans anymore, meaning departments across the U.S. are all, at some point, destined for the same thing: bigger, faster cars.
Police tell NYMag that they need larger, faster vehicles in order to pursue suspects with similarly large and fast vehicles. Chases are already incredibly dangerous, killing more Americans each year than tornadoes, lightning, and hurricanes combined—many innocent bystanders. These larger vehicles traveling at breakneck speed in urban areas will be even more dangerous. Partially due to SUV adoption both on, and off the force, traffic deaths are at a 16-year high. These heavy vehicles have also never been crash tested for pedestrian safety. What else do we expect from vehicles which have literally reached the size of tanks. The addition of weighty batteries in electric drivetrains doesn’t help matters, as municipalities across the country dedicate themselves to using EVs.
Police chases are already incredibly dangerous, but it’s not just chases we have to worry about. Officers often have a wide amount of discretion in how they use these large vehicles as battering rams on unsuspecting people. In 2021, a police officer performed a PIT maneuver on a pregnant woman whose only crime was looking for a safe place to pull over (and possibly speeding.) In 2019, an NYPD officer in an SUV hit a biker hard enough to get the Citi Bike lodged in his wheel well. He can be heard telling the biker he hit him in order to ensure the biker’s safety. And just this week, a police cruiser jumped a curb and slammed into pedestrians on the side walk, hurting 10 and critically injuring 4 people, including a 5-year-old child.