Police cruiser business proves to be hot

Normally accustomed to sitting in the back seat of a police car, I found myself recently in a surprising change of position: I got to drive a police car. And, not being able to help myself, somehow the car managed to peel off a tiny little burnout because, well, suddenly I was The Law.

And I have to say, all those boyhood thoughts about becoming a police officer in hot pursuit of speeding cars came flooding back as I ripped off rubber with the accelerator flat against the floor of a brand new Dodge Pursuit vehicle, freshly assembled in police livery by Ottawa’s Intercept PSE, which specializes in preparing custom police, fire and EMS vehicles. On some completely empty back roads, I chased some imaginary suspects as the Charger’s big 5.7L Hemi V8 proved, quite categorically, that it would not be outrun by anything other than something exotic.

The work by Intercept PSE is impressive, too. The 2011 Dodge Charger I drove was equipped with a litany of tight fitting components, video recorders, custom plastic floors and plastic seats in the back, bars on the back windows, a unique barrier between the front and back, as well as a custom-fitted console upfront housing the radio and siren controls, which I “accidentally” turned on. All done, the car cost about $46,000. No wonder young men go into the police service — these cars are as almost as exciting as racecars.

Intercept PSE is one of many companies across Canada that fully dress base cruisers that come from the factory as purpose-built police cars. For the City of Ottawa, cruisers are dressed by the municipality; but Intercept PSE, with a staff of four, still converts between 50 and 100 vehicles a year for various other small municipalities. They install everything from lights, sirens and graphics to custom welding, fabricating and manufacturing. CEO Jean-Marc Bois says his company can also convert snowmobiles, boats, ATVs “just about anything you can put a light or siren on.”

The police intercept business is big, too, with Ford, Chrysler and GM all vying for a slice of the lucrative government police pool. Ford, long the king of the police cruiser with its Crown Victoria, is ramping up a new Taurus and Explorer, while GM is building a new Caprice, and Dodge has its newly revised Charger, known in some circles as “the Enforcer.”

The unit I drove was one of the first 2011 models off the assembly line at the Brampton Assembly Plant in Brampton, Ontario. It includes an upgraded suspension, including heavy-duty brakes, stabilizer bars both front and rear, 18-inch steel wheels with performance tires, and two police-only calibrations in the car’s Electronic Stability Control system. The standard engine is the company’s new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, good for 290 horsepower, though any police department wanting respect will order cars with the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8, producing about 370 horsepower.

That, I can assure you, is enough to reach 100 km/h in about 6 seconds — slightly slower if you make the rookie move of smoking the tires on takeoff.

Ottawa’s Intercept PSE specializes in preparing custom police, fire and EMS vehicles such as this Dodge Charger.
Photograph by: Derek McNaughton, Postmedia News