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New Duluth squad cars boast all-LED lights, updated equipment (with video)

Sleek, powerful, loaded with technology -- the Duluth Police Department's new squad cars should make quite an impression as they start patrolling the streets as soon as next week.

New squad car
Duluth police officer Brad Wick drives one of the new squad cars in the parking lot at the new Duluth police headquarters. It features a hefty grill guard, new LED lighting, extra stability at high speeds and better gas mileage. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)

Sleek, powerful, loaded with technology -- the Duluth Police Department's new squad cars should make quite an impression as they start patrolling the streets as soon as next week.

The department has acquired and outfitted eight Dodge Charger Pursuits, which look very different from the Ford Crown Victorias in use; Ford no longer makes the Crown Victoria.

"The Charger is a better-handling vehicle. ... They're so much more stable," said Sgt. Brad Wick, the department's fleet supervisor, as he gave a "tour" of the cars on Tuesday. "For us, the V-6 (engine in the Charger) ... going from the big V-8 in the Fords, we're actually going up in horsepower but also improving economy. We figure we're going to get 15 to 20 percent better fuel economy out of these cars."

Wick said the average annual mileage of a Duluth squad car can vary considerably depending on what part of town it patrols; cars on the west side of Duluth may put on upwards of 60,000 miles a year.

It's not only the cars themselves that are new; all of the equipment -- from a keyless ignition system to computers to lights and GPS units -- is new, too.

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"This is the first time in a long time that we've outfitted cars from top to bottom with brand-new equipment," Wick said. "When these cars are done, we'll be able to take most of this stuff -- all of the lights, the partitions, computer systems, camera systems, sirens, control modules -- all that stuff will be transferred" to new cars. Wick said much of the equipment should be able to be transferred to any new squad car the department chooses to acquire in the future.

Other features include:

  • Of the eight new squads, five have standard emergency light bars on the roof, while three are "flat-tops" -- the emergency lights are concealed around the windshield and in other less-visible locations.
  • The cars are equipped with three global positioning systems -- one used by maintenance staff to track the squads' usage; one used by 911 dispatchers to track cars' location; and one that works with the camera system. Rather than having to haul a hard drive filled with camera footage into the station when needed, Wick said the new squads will automatically upload that footage to computers in the building when they pull into the station.
  • The emergency lights are all LED, are brighter and offer the department more options in how they can be programmed. The sirens are similar to those used on current squads.
  • The back doors of the cars open nearly 90 degrees to make it easier for people to get in and out of the rear compartment.
  • A shelf in the trunk contains modules -- and a lot of wiring -- for the camera system, computer modem, siren control system and GPS units.
  • The new cars, including all of the new equipment and outfitting, cost about $45,000 each, Wick said. Wick said he expects four of the new squad cars will be put into service by early next week.

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