MSP becoming more mobile than ever
WAKEFIELD - The days of the old police car with the CB radio and spotlight are over. The radio and spotlight are still there, but Sgt. Glenn Gauthier, of the Michigan State Police Wakefield Post, said the role of a state trooper is becoming more mobile, and the vehicle is making that a reality.
"This is a trooper's office," he said motioning to the dark blue Dodge Charger with the red cherry button-light on top.
The vehicle is loaded to the dome-light with technology, some of which has been around for years, and some just a few months.
The cramped driver's seat of the cruiser resembles the cockpit of the space shuttle, or at the very least the interior a semi-truck compacted to fit into a family sedan.
For the center console, where normal Sunday drivers might keep their cappuccinos or soft drinks, are switches for the radio, siren and an actual printer that prints off tickets.
The vehicle is also equipped with front and rear radar that shoots a cone of signal at an adjustable range, and tracks the largest moving object, sending data back to the car's computer.
"People are still used to thinking that you have to be stopped, and you've got to be moving and you've got to be facing them, but it doesn't matter," Gauthier said. "You can get them from any direction."
Though police still rely on central dispatch, Gauthier said troopers don't have to be as dependent on someone at base camp as they were before.
The vehicle has a card scanner, connected to the laptop, that can read the magnetic strip on the back of Michigan driver's licenses, making it easier to find records.
"So if I wanted to run a license plate, run your driver's license, now I can do it all here," Gauthier said.
All of these features add to the mobility of law enforcement.
"Most of it's not new, it just gets better," Gauthier said.
Radar has been used by police since before he was on the force, almost 15 years. The full-size laptops, mounted near the dashboard, made their first appearance to the area around three years ago, but some downstate posts have been using them for nearly a decade, Gauthier said.
But the latest piece of advanced crime-fighting technology for the Wakefield Post is ... the rearview mirror.
Might not sound too advanced, but the mirror actually has a digital viewing screen that's connected to a camera. Police cruisers have had cameras for years, but they weren't digital. They ran on VHS tapes that were located in the vehicle's trunk.
"You used to have to change your tape everyday," Gauthier said.
The mirrors, which were purchased November 2013, allow troopers to instantly review film of traffic stops and other issues with digital quality.
Moreover, the Michigan State Police have adopted an Assigned Vehicle Program, which allows troopers to take their vehicles home with them.
The program is up to the discretion of the post commander to decide how many people at the site can have assigned vehicles.
"Sooner or later it will probably almost be everybody," Gauthier said. "But it's dependent on how many cars you have in your fleet, and how many troopers you have at your post because some posts may not have enough cars to give everybody one."
The Wakefield post currently has enough cars for everyone, with quite a few troopers having assigned vehicles.
"It's a mobile police force," Gauthier said. "Now, instead of being reliant on having to report to the post to respond to an incident, you can respond to an incident from your residence, and that improves response time and also creates increased visibility in the community."