In October 2020, the Michigan State Police (MSP) conducted its annual testing of police vehicles and police motorcycles. Also this year in November, the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department (LASD) conducted its annual vehicle testing. The MSP event runs over four days and takes place at several unique locations in Michigan, depending on the specific tests being performed.

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This year’s testing was of course under the guidelines of COVID-19 safety protocols. Due to restricted access for personnel, each OEM was only allowed a small number of necessary engineering staff. All logistics like food and administration functions were restricted to each OEM’s own location and interaction was very limited.

The vehicle acceleration, top speed, and braking tests were performed at the FCA Proving Grounds. This 4.7-mile, 140 mph neutral steer banked oval provides the appropriate space to obtain accurate test results at top speeds. The ABS brake test is also performed at the FCA Proving Grounds.
The motorcycle brake testing is performed at the Michigan State Police Precision Driving Unit’s (PDU) own facility. The MSP PDU’s east straightaway has been used for brake testing since the 2011 model year and provides a consistent surface to gauge brake performance. Both the motorcycle and vehicle dynamics testing are performed at Grattan Raceway.
Although these two agency tests are arguably the “benchmark” for all police vehicle manufacturers to meet, MSP and LASD are not governing bodies that decide which vehicles get blessed with the sacred description of “Pursuit Rated.” In fact, that could not be further from the truth.

Both these agencies have a long history of testing vehicles designed for use in the rigorous environment that is front-line policing. It is the nature of the job that requires front-line officers to do extraordinary things in order to keep the public safe. When officers are forced to escalate to high-risk activities, their vehicle must be able to perform consistently at a high level with a non-existent failure rate. The reality is no one can really define the term “Pursuit Rated” or give a specific vehicle that official designation. MSP does a very good job explaining the standard of the rating and its basic rationale for why it is required in front-line policing.

Below is an excerpt from the MSP Annual Report, which appropriately explains the rating:
“The term ‘pursuit capable’ is more appropriate, as there is no sanctioning body, or specific performance criteria, to determine if the vehicle meets a specialized designation. Each vehicle has been modified from a civilian vehicle to perform better under the rigors of police use. These vehicles are engineered to repetitively stop in a shorter distance, accelerate faster, and handle better than the base platform. Modifications to engines, cooling systems, transmissions and shifting parameters, brakes, tires, stability control programming, and other changes may all be included as part of the manufacturer’s police package.”

“The MSP has performance criteria attached to its purchasing specifications. The criteria has historically been that a vehicle must accelerate from 0 – 60 mph in 9.0 seconds, 0 – 80 mph in 14.9 seconds, and 0 – 100 mph in 24.6 seconds. The vehicle must reach 110 mph in 4,838 feet and 120 mph in 8,985 feet. The vehicle must maintain an average deceleration rate of 25.79 ft./sec2 while performing twenty 60 – 0 mph threshold braking stops.

The vehicle must also successfully complete all 32 laps of the Grattan Raceway dynamics testing without major component failure. Meeting these criteria does not certify a vehicle as being pursuit rated; rather, it justifies a vehicle is capable of performing the job function the MSP requires in a police vehicle. When reading the testing results, it is up to each agency to determine if the vehicle is suitable for the mission of the agency.”
The MSP tests are different from their counterparts out west at the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s (LASD) vehicle test, which is also run annually. MSP is a full-service agency that devotes a lot of time to freeway patrol depending on the geographical area being patrolled. As such, they devote considerable resources to highway traffic patrol. Therefore, performance at freeway speeds is important to them and their testing reflects that. MSP tests all vehicles for top speed. Since today’s vehicles are most often speed limited by software, it is a simple verification of the manufacturer’s claims.

Essentially, MSP wants to know, will it hit the advertised speed?
Unlike MSP, LASD puts 400 pounds of weight in the back of each SUV tested. LASD believes no police department would ever deploy an empty vehicle, so why not test as it would be deployed in the real world. MSP does not add extra weight to any of the tested vehicles. MSP is testing the vehicle to verify it can meet their specific requirements and the advertised claims of the manufacturer.

During the 0-60 mph brake testing, the MSP allows each vehicle to have fresh burnished brakes (new pads and rotors) and they do not require the vehicle to have been driven at all before the brakes are evaluated. The LASD method involves the vehicles being driven hard and the brakes are hot before the brakes are tested.

The MSP test begins with “cold” brakes. The first five stops are performed in a southbound direction; the second set of stops in a northbound direction across the same surface. Once 10 stops are performed, the vehicle is driven 3.2 miles at 45 mph to allow the brakes to cool before the second sequence. After the cooling distance, the 10 stops are repeated. The exact initial velocity at the beginning of each of the 60 – 0 mph decelerations, and the exact distance required to make each stop, is recorded by means of a RaceLogic Vbox 3i GPS-based data collection unit.

Please refer to the tables through-out this article the highlights from the MSP testing.

Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 30-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He was an eight-year member of the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at sgt1411@gmail.com.
– Photos courtesy of The Michigan State Police, Ashly O’Brien and Brad Brewer