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What Does Police Package Mean?

At this time of transition in police vehicles, there is widespread interest in how a vehicle becomes a police package, pursuit rated vehicle. It started in the 1950s. The Michigan State Police began testing police cars, but only the low bidder. In the mid-1970s, two of the police car bids were less than $5 apart.

So, then the question was: Would we have a much better car if we spent an extra five bucks? We didn’t know the answer because we only tested the low bid car. For the 1978, model year, we began testing them all. This meant testing sedans from Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Ford, Mercury, Plymouth, Dodge, Subaru, Volvo and probably a few more.


Over the decades, MSP worked with the manufacturers to develop and test their police vehicles. During these tests, we have crashed, burned, rolled, broke, blown up engines, toasted brakes, chewed up tires. Through it all, we keep progressing to the best, toughest, most technologically advanced police cars ever made. We have helped police departments from east to west, north to south; smallest police department to largest; including every federal law enforcement agency and the police in numerous foreign countries. The single reason—so all of us go home at the end of shift.

Of course, there are two sides of the what-we-want coin. The administrator wants a vehicle that is a good buy, never needs maintenance, brakes that last a lifetime, oil that cleans itself, tires that last 100,000 miles. If you are a street cop, you want the acceleration of a Ferrari, the handling of a Corvette, the trunk size of a Lincoln Town Car, and the interior room of a large pick-up truck.

The MSP tests are hard on vehicles. Why? To be honest, we are cops, and all of us are hard on them for good reason—it is a tough job. You would never drive your personal car like you would a police vehicle. When advanced systems were coming on line in development, we were there with the police engineers testing the new systems. Anti-lock Brake Systems, advanced stability control systems, voice activation, touchscreens, lights, tires, crash mitigation, to name recent testing development work.


Here is the point: We have been involved in police vehicle testing for decades. We only test vehicles (cars, SUVs, motorcycles) that the manufacturer designs for and supports for police work. The pursuit rating only comes from the manufacturer, not a distributor or local dealer. In fact, many vehicles listed in fleet literature have disclaimers like, “Not designed nor intended for emergency driving or pursuit.”

We don’t test vehicles that a dealership on their own accord slaps lights and police decals on a vehicle, car or motorcycle, and call it a police vehicle. We have been to too many police funerals. All this applies equally to police cars/SUVs/pickups as well as motorcycles. Especially with motorcycles, since if something goes wrong, it’s terribly unforgiving.

As one who ran the MSP vehicle tests for years, my advice is only buy a manufacturer-backed, police-engineered, police-tested vehicle. We are the ones that get the calls from the accident investigators from around the country on wondering why an accident may have occurred. Trust me, if there are accidents of police vehicles, even NHTSA will call us. Sometimes investigators find out that a vehicle is not police tested or actually had problems during MSP police vehicle testing and had withdrawn from the program.

Even if your department has a no-pursuit policy, your officers will use “emergency driving” response to calls. Only get patrol vehicles that the manufacturers have designed for that purpose.



With the Training Division of the Michigan State Police, Doc Halliday ran their annual Patrol Vehicle Evaluation Program. He was instrumental in defining what vehicles to test (police package) and what vehicles not to test (special service, retail). He may be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Nov 2015

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