BLMCompton shootingcop carsExtremefordpolice carsPolice Perimeter Alert

Could a Car-Sonar Perimeter Shield Police From an Ambush?

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

One question after the ambush shooting of two California cops sitting in their police car Saturday: How many ways could it have been avoided? One answer is that technology available on some police cars might have helped: sensors that track the outside activity on the sides and behind the car, provide a motion trail showing people walking toward or away from the car, and optionally, a rear video feed. That scenario describes what happened to the two LA deputy sheriffs in Compton: A gunman approached from the side, walked up the passenger side of the car, and opened fire, apparently with the deputies otherwise occupied. Both were shot multiple times; they survived.

Ford, the biggest seller of police vehicles, offers a Police Perimeter Alert on its police SUVs and pickups. The system automates warning, has the ability to track multiple people around the vehicle, and lock down the vehicle. But some of the additional things required to fully protect cops, such as bulletproof windows that can’t be rolled down, get in the way of effective day-to-day policing.

Ford schematic showing Police Perimeter Alert. People nearby are spotted then tracked. Red means the person is walking toward the police car. The car can automatically roll up the windows and lock the doors.

Ford describes its perimeter shield this way:

Factory-installed Police Perimeter Alert uses sensors to monitor an approximately 270-degree area around the vehicle. It analyzes nearby movement to detect potentially threatening behavior. When such motion is detected, the system automatically turns on the rear camera, sounds a chime, rolls up the windows and locks the doors. Motion trails of the detected threat appear on the digital instrument cluster so officers can monitor.

Another option, Rear Camera On-Demand, lets officers press a button and see an onscreen view of what’s behind the cruiser. On civilian cars, the rear camera is on only when backing up.

This has the potential to provide additional safety, and it could have helped the deputies working transit security in the early evening hours at the Compton Blue Line light-rail station. Some aftermarket companies provide armored police cars, including optional roll-down armored windows, but the costs rise quickly for aftermarket customization.

The feature many urban police departments really want is hybrid propulsion, which optimizes fuel efficiency in stop-and-go driving, and also provides almost an hour of engine-off roadside standing with radios, lights, and climate control on, after running for about 10-15 minutes to charge the batteries. Ford rates the 2020 Police Interceptor Utility hybrid (Ford Explorer) at 24 mpg, 40 percent better than a non-hybrid version.

Screen capture from Saturday’s shooting of two LA Sheriff’s deputies. (LA Sheriff’s Department)

The Cost of Policing to Cops and Citizens

In the wake of the shooting, it’s hard for most people to think about anything other than the recovery of the two wounded deputies. But they also have to think over time about what it costs to run a public safety agency, and what it costs when policing endangers citizens. Nashville just paid a $12 million settlement to the family of Breonna Taylor, an EMT shot and killed by police in 2020. Compton mayor Aja Brown said she was “devastated to learn of the tragedy” but several weeks before, she charged that LA Sheriff’s deputies “terrorize the community.”

As for the dangers of being a cop, the odds of being injured, more than once in a career, are real. The dangers of dying are statistically low. Being a full-time law enforcement official carries a one-in-6,000 chance of dying in any year, and last year 135 police officers were killed in the line of duty. But there are a dozen professions up to nine times more dangerous, commercial fishing and logging most of all. An average of 53 police officers were shot and killed in each year of the past decade, the leading cause of death, followed by various job-related illnesses (41 per year), car crashes (35 per year), and being struck by a vehicle (12 per year).

Reinforcing the subframe lets Ford certify its cars to withstand 75 mph rear impacts.

Making Police Cars Safer

Ballistic armor panel for the car door.

The leading suppliers — Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford — reinforce the body so occupants can survive a 50 mph impact, such as when a drunk driver plows into a cruiser parked off the road. Ford offers a further reinforcement that raises that to 75 mph. Bullet-resistant body panels are standard or available, in several levels of protection. The LAPD actually specifies resistance for four “special threat rounds,” higher velocity 7.62 mm, 5.56 mm, and 30-06 bullets. Front seats have knife-proof seatbacks and are tailored for ease of fastening a seat belt around a service belt. Onboard and body cameras record the day’s work for the protection of both cops and civilians. Many cop cars can bounce over railroad tracks at 30 mph or hit curbs without damage to tires or wheels (steel, not aluminum).

As for whether technology could have saved the two injured LA deputies: An automated perimeter protection system is especially helpful when the car is parked and cops are writing reports or updating logs, or watching, and their attention isn’t on what’s off to the side or behind them. So is an automatic doors-locked, windows up feature. A hollow-point bullet, designed to deform on impact, might not penetrate side glass; a jacketed round might, and a shot from an angle might deflect from the original path. Compton officials only said “several rounds” were fired.

Hearing the perimeter threat warning chime might well have alerted the officers to look up and take action that saved them. The Compton incident may spur public safety departments to look into more officer-protection technologies.

Now read:



Tags

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *