While returning home from a routine leisure patrol in Lake Tahoe last weekend, Telstar Logistics decided to do some reconnaissance at the California Highway Patrol's Fleet Operations Facility just off I-80 in West Sacramento. The Fleet Operations Facility is a centralized location where the CHP takes delivery of brand-new vehicles and preps them for duty by installing equipment like emergency lights, sirens, radios, and Highway Patrol decals.
Most of the time, the giant parking lot is packed with black-and-white Ford Crown Victoria Interceptors lined up in tidy rows like cute little ducklings. For example, the following is a photo of the facility we took back in April 2006. As you can see, nothing but Crown Vics:
Last weekend, however, we saw something very different: long lines of new Dodge Chargers in a wide variety of colors — with no black-and-whites. Upon surveying the scene, we whipped out our handy dandy spy-cam to snap a few photos:
We then raced home to research our strange discovery. Here's what we learned:
According to Government Fleet, a trade journal, the CHP paid $1.9 million for 88 Dodge Chargers, paying $21,673 per charger. Most of the new cars are slated for undercover operation, although nine will be retained in Sacramento for training use. The order was placed last year, but it seems the agency has now taken delivery of its new undercover cars. And soon they'll be out on the streets.
To be sure, the new Chargers are stealthy. Unlike Crown Vics, which scream COP CAR!! even when unmarked, there's not much about the CHP's new Chargers that would attract attention from even an alert motorist. No clunky steel wheels. No visibly beefed-up suspension. No A-pillar spotlights. Granted, they look somewhat like rental cars, but that's a far cry from anything which would suggest that Ponch and Jon are riding inside.
Just as significant, perhaps, is the fact that the CHP has started to diversify. Crown Vics have been the backbone of the CHP's marked fleet, and today the agency operates more than 2,100 of the venerable Fords. Meanwhile, troopers in many other states have already traded in their Crown Vics for new Chargers, and as one astute analyst recently noted, the Dodge cop cars look pretty badass.
Here's a slicktop Charger in service with the Massachusetts State Police:
Photo by christopdesoto
And here's one (with the telltale steel wheels) used by the Michigan State Police:
Photo by squeez91270
Will black-and-white CHP Chargers come to California's highways as well? Frankly, we hope so, if only because it's vastly easier to see a marked Charger than it is to try and spot its low-profile alternative. In the meantime, California motorists... let's be careful out there.
Dodge Charger Police (Official Dodge fleet sales website, with multimedia)
California Highway Patrol Adds Charger as Undercover & Training Vehicles (Government Fleet, May 16, 2007)
Dodge Charger Police Cars (Flickr photo group)
What Kind of Man Drives an Ex-Police Car?