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Police Fleet Expo 2009: Upfitter’s Roundtable

The Upfitter’s Roundtable for alternative vehicles was the perfect educational session companion to the Upfitter’s Challenge event at this year’s Track Tech. It was one of the most interesting events at the show; the theme was upfitting alternative vehicles for police work. The vehicles were on display at the Track Tech events and then later at the trade show.

Steve Contarino of Adamson Industries started off the Roundtable by speaking on the potential reality of no more pursuit-rated vehicles being available and the possible consequences to law enforcement. Contarino touched on a very valid point with regards to liability: If you take away a pursuit-rated vehicle and then introduce a vehicle not designed for pursuit/patrol duty, what liability do you bring upon your agency? Some agencies have accepted this liability, but each will have to decide on its own what is best for its specific deployment.

The interesting discovery at this presentation was the actual availability of aftermarket parts for upfitting non-traditional alternative police vehicles. In the past, upfitters would have to fabricate pieces or parts to fit existing products and equipment into unique vehicles. Now pretty much everything used or shown at the PFE Upfitter’s Challenge is available for purchase. Smaller siren and lighting controllers and smaller siren speakers allow much quicker and easier installation in some of these smaller vehicles. The emergency lighting was 100% LED with most using the latest technology to fit smaller LEDs into spots that have never been used before.

Mike Tobin from Lund Industries spoke about the Ford Escape Hybrid with full police package. This was a very interesting submission as some agencies are seriously considering limited patrol deployments of these vehicles because of the green initiative and extra equipment capacity. Tobin cautioned anyone interested in upfitting these Hybrids to stay away from the Hybrid battery or cooling systems in these vehicles as the manufacturer doesn’t want upfitting anywhere near them.

All of the upfitting equipment is low voltage emergency lighting, which is the very latest LED, with Lund designing a custom console that integrates the floor shifter and siren switching all in a very neat, clean package. The console just drops right in and replaces the OEM console but now with equipment cutouts.

Cory Roltsch from Warnock Fleet-MNStar spoke about its entries in the Upfitter’s Challenge, which were two custom designed 2009 Ford Edge CUVs. Warnock upfitted a marked Edge with Whelen’s Liberty lightbar SW8RRBB, ALPR, Datalux mobile computing solution and a host of LED emergency lights and switches. Even though the HVAC and radio controls were blocked by the computer, Warnock had the steering wheel controls fully functional. The marked Edge had the Pro-Guard push bar with new LED lighting installed on an angle for good off-axis visibility. This came about from California Highway Patrol’s extensive research in this particular light configuration.

The Warnock unmarked Edge used blacked out windows to hide all the interior equipment. At first glance this vehicle has absolutely nothing to identify it as a Police vehicle, but when the emergency equipment is activated the vehicle lights up like a Christmas tree. Warnock used primarily all Whelen Vertex LED lighting on both vehicles but it is where they installed it that makes this unmarked vehicle so unique.

Warnock upfitters used existing products that were inexpensive to modify for the non-traditional Edge. Pro-gard also supplied a custom designed rear prisoner compartment partition with all mounting points being OEM which allows for a “no holes drilled” installation that leads to quicker, cleaner installs and higher resale values.

With the Jeep Grand Cherokee positioned (dollar-wise) to replace the discontinued Dodge Durango, Jim Kelly of PDS Police Services covered every aspect of the Grand Cherokee upfit. His How-To presentation demonstrated the complete upfit from lower front fascia to rear liftgate, including difficult installation of the outside rear view mirror lights and interior rear view, forward-facing lights. Of special note was the custom center console.

Matt Ayers with Command & Control Installations ( rounded out the presentation with tips on how to upfit the Ford F-150 pickup. Some items are available aftermarket and some items can be adapted from other vehicles to fit the F-150, but much of the upfit involves custom bracket and console work. A universal wiring harness is one clear solution. His last piece of advice was to be careful how much weight is added to the grille on vehicles that have the grille bolted to the hood. It may be too much weight for the hood to stay open!

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2009

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