LITTLE ROCK — They don’t look like state police cruisers, and that’s by design.
The Arkansas State Police added two dozen new Dodge Chargers to its highway patrol fleet Wednesday, billed as "low-profile" vehicles with no markings on the driver’s side and no light bar on the roof.
The vehicles are not standard-issue white, either, but come in red, black, silver and orange. The intent is for troopers to be able to monitor traffic with vehicles that also blend into it, the agency said.
"Low-profile patrol cars are not what a driver might normally recognize as a state police vehicle," Major J.R. Hankins, commander of the western region of the Highway Patrol Division, said in an ASP statement announcing the new vehicles. "Simply stated, we’re trying to change what a violator might be looking for and be in a better position to document the violation before initiating the traffic stop."
"They’ll be on the road today," state police spokesman Bill Sadler said in an interview, two assigned to each of the agency’s 12 troops around the state.
The vehicles do have markings, but only on the passenger side where the door bears a state police logo, with a blue stripe and the word "trooper" displayed on the front panel. Emergency lighting is fitted under the brim of the front windshield.
Sadler said the vehicles were purchased with a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
This is the second time the state police has tried out low profile vehicles for patrol purposes. In 1999, troopers used Camaros and Impalas in a small-scale experiment that was discontinued in 2000.
ASP said particular caution will be used by troopers using the low-profile patrol vehicles on divided highways. It said troopers, whenever safely possible, will move into a position allowing a violator to get a better view of the trooper and see the right-side markings of the patrol car. The trooper will then fall back behind the violator to initiate the traffic stop with a blue emergency light across the top interior of the front windshield.
The agency also said reasonable consideration will be given to drivers who may be uncertain whether the traffic stop is being executed by a legitimate law enforcement vehicle. Drivers may proceed at a posted speed to the nearest safe location before stopping.