The police vehicle you see in your rear-view mirror might be sporting an unfamiliar badge—Dodge Charger, for instance. The sporty Charger, from Chrysler LLC, is aiming to earn a share of the police cruiser market.

Each year, local law enforcement agencies in the United States buy a total of 75,000 vehicles for replacement or to expand patrols. More often than not, they’ve been buying Ford Crown Victorias or, less often, Chevrolet Impalas.

In the community of Shenandoah, Texas, though, “our entire marked patrol fleet is now all Charger,” Sgt. A. Bryan Carlisle of the Shenandoah Police Department told GovPro.com.

“We outfitted the last couple of vehicles last month,” Carlisle said. “Our cars are outfitted very well. They are probably equipped the best in Montgomery County as far as technology, computers, lighting and emergency safety apparatus goes.”

‘A winning purchase’

Supervising officers also have received Chargers, minus the light bar on top, but with internal strobes.

“We love them; that’s why we ordered them again,” Carlisle told GovPro.com. “It was worth the delay in obtaining the cars. We know there’s a pretty big demand for them right now—it takes a while to get the particular vehicle in stock.

“The Chargers do get a lot of attention. They handle well, and our patrol officers definitely enjoy driving them. So unless there’s some sort of major change to the Charger design, I would anticipate that we will continue to order Chargers. All in all, it’s been a winning purchase.”

The Chargers fill the bill in a lot of ways, Carlisle explained.

“Size-wise, they are fine, especially when they are outfitted with the slick, hard-shell plastic bench seat in the back,” Carlisle told GovPro.com. “That does add a little bit more leg room for passengers. It aids our officers in the search process, also. If they miss anything in the search, the suspect can’t place contraband underneath the seats. It’s incredibly more durable, and makes the job of transporting prisoners a lot easier.”

Shenandoah, Texas, population 1,892, is a Houston suburb that covers a total of six square miles, with two miles of Interstate 45 bisecting it. Patrol officers face a lot of stop-and-go traffic on their shift, Carlisle noted.

“I-45 is the major thoroughfare that runs up from Houston to Dallas and then to all points north in the U.S., so we get a lot of traffic,” Carlisle said. “The estimated daily population that passes through our city is around 140,000.”

Shenandoah buys its cruisers off of state contract. In all, the department has 16 vehicles.

Evaluation program gives Charger high marks

Shenandoah’s police department put the Dodge Charger police vehicle on its short list of models to consider after the Charger got a positive reception at the Michigan State Police Vehicle Evaluation Program. The benchmarking and testing process sets the standard for many police departments across the United States when ordering new fleet vehicles.

For the past two years, Dodge Charger police vehicles have met and/or exceeded requirements of those tests, which included a series of on-road exercises that evaluated acceleration, top speed, braking and vehicle dynamics.

Other U.S communities that are joining Shenandoah, Texas, in adding Dodge police vehicles to their fleets include: Denver; Fort Worth, Texas; Orange County, Calif.; Philadelphia; Richland, Miss.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Seattle.

A rich heritage

The Chrysler Dodge and Plymouth nameplates have had a rich heritage in police cruiser offerings.

“The former Chrysler Corporation dominated the police car business throughout the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, with U.S. market shares ranging from 45 to 60 percent,” reported a Chrysler press release. Some of the police vehicles manufactured by the former Chrysler Corp. included the Dodge Monaco, Dodge Royal Monaco, Dodge Coronet, Dodge Diplomat, Dodge Dart, Dodge St. Regis, Plymouth Fury, Plymouth Gran Fury, Plymouth Volare and Chrysler Newport.

Dodge returned to the police car market after a 12-year hiatus with the 2002 Dodge Intrepid. The front-wheel-drive Intrepid earned a 4 percent share of the approximately 70,000-unit U.S. market. That vehicle was phased out of production in 2003.

In the fall of 2004, Dodge previewed the 2005 Magnum as a special-service police vehicle, offering enhanced rear-wheel-drive performance and handling with a full-size, flexible interior. The 2006 Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum police vehicles were introduced in the spring of 2005 as full-service police pursuit units.