Police transport

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State of Israel Police vehicles and officers

Transportation for police forces is provided by a number of ground vehicles, aircraft and watercraft.




A police car is the description for a vehicle used by police, to assist with their duties in patrolling and responding to incidents. Typical uses of a police car include transportation for officers to reach the scene of an incident quickly, to transport criminal suspects, or to patrol an area, while providing a high visibility deterrent to crime. Some police cars are specially adapted for work on busy roads.

The first police car was a wagon run by electricity fielded on the streets of Akron, Ohio in 1899. The first operator of the police patrol wagon was Akron Police officer Louis Mueller, Sr. It could reach 16 mph (26 km/h) and travel 30 mi (48 km) before its battery needed to be recharged.[1] The car was built by city mechanical engineer Frank Loomis. The $2,400 vehicle was equipped with electric lights, gongs and a stretcher. The car's first assignment was to pick up an intoxicated man at Main and Exchange streets.[2]

Police four wheel drive in Brazil

Commonly known names to describe police cars are (police) cruiser, squad car, panda car, area car and patrol car. Depending on the configuration of the emergency lights, a police car may also be called a marked unit. In some places a police car may also be informally known as a cop car, a black and white, a cherry top, a gumball machine, or a jam sandwich, in Los Angeles, from the early 1950s, until the late 1970s, the lights were different from most areas, with two forward-facing, stationary red lights, with amber flashing lights facing rearward, inside of black metal housings mounted to the roof of the car.

In some areas of the world, the police car has become more widely used than police officers "walking the beat", because cars allow patrols to cover a much greater area in less time. In addition to cars, police trucks are also often used for situations in which a car would not be practical.[3]


Victoria Police motorcycle
Bremen police, 2010

A police motorcycle is a motorcycle used by various police forces and departments. They may be custom designed to meet the requirements unique of a particular use. A police motorcycle is often called a "motor" by police officers in the United States. Similarly, motorcycle units are known as motor units and motorcycle officers are known as motor officers.

The maneuverability of the motorcycle on crowded streets offer advantages not provided by larger, more traditional police vehicles. The motorcycle's relatively small size allows it to get to accident scenes more quickly when incidents such as traffic collisions slow down access by four-wheel vehicles.

Police motorcycles in the United States and Canada typically use purpose-built motorcycles marketed by Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Honda, or BMW. Kawasaki Police Motorcycles, which were built for the US market in Lincoln, Nebraska, ceased production in September 2005.

In the United Kingdom, the most common police motorcycles are the BMW RT series and the Yamaha FJR1300. Police forces have withdrawn the Honda ST1300 Pan-European since the death of an officer was blamed on the machine.[4] Some police forces also use scooters within towns, or special-purpose machines such as unmarked (covert),[5] or off-road motorcycles.[6]

Of the British manufacturers themselves, Triumph motorcycles, built at Meriden, were used by some British and mainly Commonwealth police forces until 1983 when the factory closed. The police version of the Triumph Thunderbird was nicknamed the Saint, an acronym of "Stops Anything In No Time".[7] Norton's Commando Interpol and later Wankel rotary engine Interpol 2 motorcycle were used by some British forces until that firm's collapse in the early 1990s. Other marques such a BSA were used by some forces although only the Velocette LE 'noddy-bike' model proved as popular with the police as the Triumphs.

In 2008, BMW claimed to be the largest seller of motorcycles for authority use, as more than 100,000 BMW motorcycles were in official use in over 150 countries on five continents. In 2007, BMW sold 4,284 police motorcycles worldwide.[8] BMW produces police-specific models such as the R1200RT-P and R900RT-P. More than 225 U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, have BMW authority motorcycles in their fleets of patrol vehicles.[9]

In 2020, electric kick scooters were trialed by municipal police in Honfleur[10][11] and Vias, Hérault[12] in France, Santa Barbara and California State University.


A standing scooter of the NYPD for paroling the New York City Subway

Comparatively rare, some police department do use smaller, three-wheeled vehicles, such Cushman scooters, for various uses but are most commonly known for their use in parking enforcement, particularly by the New York Police Department and San Francisco Police Department.[13][14] Additionally, two- and three-wheeled electric standing scooters (such as Segways) are commonly also used for parking enforcement and in a patrol capacity similar to bicycles.[15] Three-wheeled mini-trucks, like the Piaggio Ape, have been used by police department in Europe as well.[16]


Police, Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris 2011
Police bicycle in Toronto, Canada


A police bicycle is a land vehicle used by police departments, most commonly in the form of a mountain bicycle. They are designed to meet the requirements unique to each department.

The maneuverability of these vehicles on crowded sidewalks and their ability to navigate narrow, crowded driveways offer advantages over what is provided by more traditional police vehicles. Use of bicycles instead of cars can make police officers more easily approachable, especially in low-crime areas. Bicycles can also be issued to police officers to enhance the mobility and range of foot patrols. Bicycles are also effective crime-fighting tools when used in densely populated urban areas. The bikes are nearly silent in operation and many criminals do not realize that an approaching person on a bike is actually a police officer. Furthermore, if the criminal attempts to flee on foot, the riding police officer has a speed advantage while able to quickly dismount if necessary.

The bicycles are custom designed for law enforcement use. Many manufacturers of bicycles offer police models, including Trek, Cannondale and Fuji. Other companies offer police, fire and EMS specific models, including Volcanic Manufacturing in Olympia, Washington. Many are equipped with a rear rack and bag to hold equipment.


A mounted police officer passes Buckingham Palace, London.

Mounted police do patrols on horseback (equestrians) or camelback. They continue to serve in remote areas and in metropolitan areas where their day-to-day function may be picturesque or ceremonial, but they are also employed in crowd control because of their mobile mass and height advantage and increasingly in the UK for crime prevention and high visibility policing roles. Mounted police may be employed for specialized duties ranging from patrol of parks and wilderness areas, where police cars would be impractical or noisy, to riot duty, where the horse serves to intimidate those whom it is desired to disperse through its larger size, or may be sent in to snatch trouble makers or offenders from the crowd.

A well-known mounted police force is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The RCMP now uses standard police methods and does not use any horses operationally. However, horses are used in the Musical Ride as well as by several provincial and municipal police detachments. In the United States, mounted patrols are still essential to local law enforcement operations. The largest Midwestern mounted patrol is in the Minneapolis Police Department of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The U.S. Border Patrol had 200 horses in 2005. Most of these are employed along the U.S.-Mexico border. In Canada, urban police forces use mounted patrols for areas inaccessible by motorized units.


A police aircraft is a rotary-wing aircraft, fixed-wing aircraft, nonrigid-wing aircraft or lighter-than-air aircraft used in police operations. They are commonly used for traffic control, ground support, search and rescue, high-speed car pursuits, observation, air patrol and riot control. In major cities in the United States, police helicopters are also used as air transportation for SWAT personnel.

Police helicopters are normally equipped with variants such as night vision, FLIR, infrared, surveillance cameras, radar, special radio systems and engines, loudspeaker systems, tear gas dispensers, searchlights, winches and winch cables, flashing light beacons, police rescue equipment and special seating. Weapons are usually not attached to the aircraft.

Police forces sometimes use military surplus helicopters, such as the Bell UH-1 Huey, but most buy their helicopters directly from major aircraft companies with necessary modifications, such as appropriate radios and high-powered spotlamps.

Some police forces make use of drones and wingman suits.[17][18]


Police boat of the NYPD

A police watercraft is usually a small or medium-sized vessel that is used by police agencies to patrol bodies of water. They are usually employed on major rivers,[19] in enclosed harbors near cities or in places where a stronger presence than that offered by the Harbourmaster or Coast Guard is needed.

Police boats sometimes have high-performance engines in order to catch up with fleeing fugitives on the water. They have been used since the beginning of the 20th century.[20]


  1. ^ Akron & Summit County History:Police Archived 2008-05-06 at the Wayback Machine, akronhistory.org
  2. ^ "The Police Wagon", Akron Beacon Journal, 1999-06-20
  3. ^ Showers, David (10 March 2020). "City board OKs new vehicles for police department". The Sentinel Record. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  4. ^ "Police withdraw Pan over safety concerns". Motorcycle News. 2007-05-14. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  5. ^ "Unmarked patrols targets drivers". BBC News. 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
  6. ^ "Chief Constable's Electronic Newsletter" (PDF). Lothian and Borders Police. July 2007. p. 15. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
  7. ^ Clew, Jeff (2007). Edward Turner: The Man Behind the Motorcycles. Veloce Publishing Ltd. p. 57. ISBN 1-84584-065-8.
  8. ^ "BMW Motorrad presents authority motorcycles at GPEC in Munich". BMW Motorrad USA. 2008-06-16. Archived from the original on 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
  9. ^ "BMW Police Motorcycles". www.policeone.com. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  10. ^ "En Normandie, des policiers municipaux vont rouler en trottinettes électriques". Konbini - All Pop Everything : #1 Media Pop Culture chez les Jeunes (in French).
  11. ^ "In Honfleur, Municipal Police Move In Electric Scooters". Online Magazine.
  12. ^ "VIAS - Deux trottinettes pour la Police Municipale". www.herault-tribune.com (in French). 18 July 2019.
  13. ^ https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703585004575604883465682458
  14. ^ "Reinventing the Wheels". NYMag.com. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  15. ^ "A short history of three-wheeled cop cars — Quartz". qz.com. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Piaggio Ape - The new addition to the German Police fleet". 25 June 2009. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  17. ^ https://www.theverge.com/2015/11/13/9728026/dubai-jetpacks-first-responders
  18. ^ https://m.khaleejtimes.com/news/dubai-police-used-drones-to-detect-4400-violations-during-first-quarter-of-2021
  19. ^ "Thames Police - History Page". www.thamespolicemuseum.org.uk. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  20. ^ 1903 New York Harbor Police boat patrol capturing pirates Archived 2007-08-13 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]

Media related to Police vehicles at Wikimedia Commons