Police cars are the most common form of transportation for law enforcement officers. Horses, electric streetcars, horses, and buggies have also been used over the years, but not near as much as automobiles.
In Pensacola in the month of November 1913, discussion and approval took place at the regular meeting of the city commissioners regarding allowing for $600 for an automobile for Chief Sanders. On November 29 the Pensacola News-Journal reported that a large, four-door used Ford was purchased for $950 to be used primarily by the chief, but also by the commissioners as needed.
An article in the Pensacola News Journal on December 30, 1915 read that a lighter police car was needed that was better on gasoline. A year later, a smaller car was purchased. In 1936, the Pensacola Police Department owned six “police scout cars” that were driven 24 hours a day. The 1936-37 city budget included money to purchase two new cars so repairs can be made without running short on the street. Eventually, the police department fathers realized that police cars were more efficient than horses, so the last one was sold.
In 1997, Chief Norman Chapman instituted a take-home cruiser program for patrol officers. Prior to 1997, about fifty marked cars were driven 24-hours a day, putting about 100,000 miles on each car per year – hard miles. Obviously the cars did not last long. Under the new plan, each patrol officer would be issued a marked car and could take them home.
At first the unsurety involved with costs, problems, and coverage haunted those who pursued the idea. However, the program proved to not only save money, increase coverage, expand security and further recruiting. It was a win-win for the Pensacola Police Force. Since Pensacola police cruisers started sporting logos and paint jobs, the cars have been decorated with no less than six paint schemes, including black with a small logo, black and yellow, white with a door shield, red, white and blue, white with a “swish,” black and white. Different lights have also adorned the tops of the cruisers.
The equipment contained and installed in cruisers have increase since their advent. From regular, no-frills cars to large vehicles that are full of specialized and electronic equipment that favors an airplane cockpit, the cars became traveling police precincts.
As crime-fighting continues, police cruisers will continue to be the most widely used form of transportation and a valuable tool for policing.