Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Thanks to the roughly 400 cop shows currently on television, most of us think we have a pretty good handle on what police work and the daily life of a cop is like. It usually goes like this: one officer with incredibly well done hair and make-up talks about a “perp”, her partner answers with a witty one-liner over a dead body while slowly removing his sunglasses, and then theme music plays. However, there is a lot about police officers we really don't know, starting with the basics: what's actually in a cop car? What do policemen ride with everyday to help them do some incredibly difficult work? We sent our world class teams of researchers, scientists, and engineers to investigate the inner workings of a police car and share our findings with you. You'll be amazed at some of the high-tech gadgets and souped-up rides your friendly neighborhood cop uses almost every day. Imagine you're a police officer. There you are, sitting in the driver's side of your car with your partner next to you. You're parked on duty near a busy main street, talking about your family, and drinking kombucha, because you refuse to be a stereotype like those donut-eating cops. Suddenly a call comes in - but wait, how and where does it come in? We've all seen enough “Law & Order” episodes to have a general idea of how this works, but what equipment connects you to both your command center and all the other patrol cars? Well, the communication system installed in a police car is one of the most important parts of the whole system; the “brain” of the car. There are special frequency ranges set aside on VHF and UHF bands for exclusive police radio use. When a dispatcher gets a call on 911 about an ongoing emergency, they relay it directly to the appropriate police officers using a two-way radio. This way, you don't have to rely on T-mobile for help...a sure way to die in a life-threatening situation. So as you're sitting in your car slurping up that last kombucha drop - and for our purposes, let's say you're a police officer in California - you get an incoming call from dispatch for a suspected 502 two blocks away from you. In California, a 502 means drunk driving. You start up the engine and speed away to the suspected drunk driver's location. You reach into your equipment console, which holds your radios and light switches, to flip on your siren switch. The siren starts up, warning other cars to get out of the way, and alerting the drunk driver that a police car is on his tail. You might be visualizing an ear-piercing wail right about now, but sirens actually don't emit just one sound. Different sounds are used for different situations. The loud, grating wail most of us associate with police sirens is used when police are fast approaching other vehicles, to warn them to clear the way. In high-traffic situations, you may have heard a shorter “yelp”-like sound intended to alert nearby vehicles and make them move. Other sounds a policeman may choose to activate include the warbler, air horn, piercer, and whoop; we swear they are real siren options, even though they sound like a bird watchers' convention. In conjunction with the light bar on top of the car, which flashes - in the US, at least - the classic red and blue lights to warn others a cop car is approaching, the siren emits sounds at approximately 110-120 decibels. In other words, somewhere between a car horn and a chainsaw, enough to be heard over even the sickest Jonas Brothers mix playing in surrounding passenger cars. You're pretty likely to catch up to your target quickly, as police vehicles are outfitted with extremely high-performance engines. Most cop cars these days have turbocharged V6 engines, which allow them to accelerate rapidly while generally maintaining good fuel economy - an important asset in high-speed pursuits. This comes in handy when you spot the suspected drunk driver ahead of you, in a car matching the description given to you. In this case, a BMW 3 series because your suspect is in a mid-life crisis. He is dangerously weaving in and out of lanes and topping 55 mph in a 30 mph zone. You press down on the gas pedal to catch up to him, knowing you can easily overtake him, and that even in a drawn out, fast chase your engine won't overheat. Why won't it? Because while passenger cars only have a standard radiator to cool down an engine, police cars are outfitted with a whole other system. Police engines are often subject to immense stress from chases, long periods of idling alternating with periods of rapid acceleration and high-speed driving, and other factors. So cop cars include not only an extra-strength radiator with a large fan, but also transmission and oil coolers, and often a power steering cooler, to keep different parts of the car in check. At this point, though you are on the drunk driver's tail, he still has not made a motion to pull over, because he's four Long Island Iced Teas deep. This is where your communication center can be converted into a megaphone so you can get your point across. Your radio microphone routes directly to speakers that are usually included in your siren system. You use your radio to yell out that you are the police, and the driver needs to pull over. Suddenly, the driver does just that, veering right and screeching to a halt. Thanks to the special heavy duty brakes on your car, you instantly slow down and pull over on the shoulder of the road right behind him. You walk on over to the car and ask the driver, Brian, for license and registration. Then you run a check on him. Thankfully, you have all the high-tech tools you need for that right at your disposal. You see, instead of an armrest as you would find in most cars, cop cars have a swivel mount that usually holds a computer. This computer has access to almost any information a police officer would need when out in the field. You, the cop in this scenario, can run license and ID checks, see if someone has outstanding warrants, or even digitally record witness statements and process other paperwork from your car's computer. After you run a check on Brian's license and ID, you notice he has an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court, after stealing $600 worth of products from Sharper Image. You get back out of the car, walk over, and ask him if he's had anything to drink. He slurs back, “just a beer or two”. You then ask him to slowly step out of his vehicle and do a walk and turn field sobriety test, to see if you should add a DUI charge to his growing list of offenses. He proceeds to open the door and immediately fall out of his vehicle, failing miserably in his attempts to stand up straight again. Almost certain now that Brian is indeed drunk, you ask him to submit to a breathalyzer test, as, like most cops, you have a portable breathalyzer with you in your vehicle. After he blows a 0.2, you inform the driver that he is now under arrest for both an outstanding warrant as well as on suspicion of DUI. Now you have to get a drunk and likely belligerent man, who is repeatedly asking “do you know who I am?!” back to the station - how can you do this safely? Well, it's a good thing your cop car is basically a portable cell! Unlike the comfortable back seats most people take a nap on during long road trips, the back seats of a cop car are hard, plastic, and deliberately cramped. The reason for the seat's awkward positioning is to force those in custody to sit very low or in a bent over position, making it harder for them to attack an officer in the front. The seats are made out of hard plastic to make clean-up easier, as people in the backseat of a cop car are unfortunately more likely to expel fluids such as vomit, urine, or blood. You're especially thankful for the plastic seats when you put the drunk driver in the back of your car and he immediately throws up Long Island Iced Teas numbers 3 and 4. As you lock the doors and climb into the front seat, your drunk back seat passenger starts to get aggressive, trying to reach you in the front. What is there to stop him? Cop cars have a combination of bulletproof glass and steel plating installed behind their front seats, in order to protect you and your partner sitting in the front from unruly passengers, like Brian, in the back. A steel mesh cage is usually in the center of this bulletproof divide, in order to allow you to communicate with the person under arrest and ask him to calm down. As you drive away, hoping the inebriated gentleman in the back quiets down soon, you settle deeper into your seat, which comfortably cushions you even with your 10 pound duty belt around your waist. How do you comfortably fit a gun, a flashlight, and a whole lot of other tools hung around your waist in a driver's seat? Good news: your seat is specially designed just for you! You and the many, many other cops out there. Though the design varies slightly from car to car, most front seats in cop cars have a cutout in the lower back so your duty belt and the weapons on it can squeeze in just fine. After all, your gun can cause enough issues without also giving you sciatica after a long day of sitting on it. You ride back to the station, drop off and process Brian, then go back on patrol. As you're driving along, you get an alert on the ALPR system. Wait...what's the ALPR system? Modern police work relies on a lot of high-tech tools. ALPR, otherwise known as Automated License Plate Readers, are high-speed, computer operated camera systems mounted on police vehicles that capture license plates of passing cars. The technology is part of a modern approach to police work to help reduce crime titled DDACTS, otherwise known as Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety. The ALPR cameras mounted on cruisers translate the photos of passing license plates into the plate's digits, which are then processed through the car's laptop. The system flags plates of cars that have been reported stolen, as belonging to fugitives, or used in the commission of a crime. The cameras also have infrared lighting, so they can identify license plates in the dark. Before you left the station, you and your partner did what most officers do: used the station's Wi-Fi hotspot to download the most recent database of fugitive warrants, suspended or revoked driver's licenses, stolen vehicles, criminal databases, and other pertinent “bad guy” information to your car's laptop. ALPR cameras on your car have now flagged the Toyota Prius that passed you, and informed you it was used in the armed robbery of a check cashing location two days ago. You immediately speed up to follow the eco-friendly thief, turning your siren back on. However, the Prius' driver has other plans. He leads you onto the highway in a high-speed pursuit. Even though you are using your speakers and siren, the suspect shows no signs of slowing down or heeding instructions, so you know you're probably going to have to force him to stop. Because you don't want to put bystanders in danger, you try to limit any dangerous maneuvers or accelerations until both you and the suspect's car are in an emptier location. This is when you decide to use your brand new, super high-tech StarChase system for the first time. The StarChase system, retrofitted onto your front grill, costs around $5,000 but highly decreases the need for high-speed, risky pursuits. It fires a two and a half inch projectile GPS trackers to latch onto the vehicle you're pursuing. This allows you and other police officers to track the suspect and corner them in a more secure, empty location, rather than endangering bystanders or executing dangerous maneuvers on a crowded highway. Thanks to the StarChase system, you hold back until other officers have been alerted to the situation and have the highway cleared of traffic. Back-up is on its way, but for now you have your PIT, or push, bumper to help you stop the suspect's car immediately. PIT stands for Pursuit Intervention Technique, more simply known as ramming a car you're chasing to stop it. The push bumper is a bumper attached to the front of a cop car, intended to help execute this special maneuver. First, you line up your front bumper just behind the back tire of the suspect's fleeing vehicle. Then you gently nudge the back of the suspect's car, before turning into it and accelerating to cause the pursued car to spin out to a stop. The Prius spins out, and you turn back to pull up alongside the stopped car. You step out and look over to the suspect's vehicle to see that the driver isn't moving. Luckily, you have first aid equipment in the trunk of your car for exactly this situation. You open up your car's trunk, which in addition to storing your gun locker with a shotgun inside, also has a portable defibrillator, bulletproof vests, and a first aid kit, which you pull out. Your partner is already by the Prius, noting down details about the suspect's car and taking photos. With no one in the police car, you have to keep the power to your communications on and lights running for a while until you deal with this mess. This is why your cop car comes equipped with a run lock ignition. The run lock ignition allows you to keep your car engine running without the key even being in the ignition, so all your electronic systems can remain functional and online while you attend to an accident scene, crime scene, or otherwise deal with witnesses and suspects. As you approach the suspect's vehicle with the first aid kit you realize...the suspect's gone! Also, your partner is a terrible cop. You look back towards your car to see that the suspect snuck over and is now getting into the driver's seat to attempt to steal your car and drive away. Since your engine is still running, this seems like it might be easy for him, but in fact, it's almost impossible to steal a cop car. The run lock ignition, the same one that allows the engine to run without you being in the car, immediately cuts power to the engine when someone touches the car brake or parking brake. As this criminal who seems committed to incredibly poor life choices tries to steal a cop car and drive away in it, he disengages the parking brake and the engine dies as he looks around, clueless. Even if you had left your parking brake off, thanks to run lock ignition, the cop car actually can't be driven away until the keys you're holding are re-inserted. You pull your gun out, aim it at the criminal, and approach him. He doesn't know it, but the fact that he's sitting behind your police car door is actually a major advantage to him. You see, you have one of the rarer police vehicles in the US outfitted with bulletproof doors. The exterior is made of ballistic tile to fragment incoming bullets, and the layer underneath is made up of the same polymer used in Kevlar vests, known as aramid fiber. The doors are so effectively bulletproof that they can stop bullets shot at mid range from an AK-47. However, since this criminal doesn't seem too knowledgeable or bright so far, he steps out of the car scared and you handcuff and arrest him.