Life after the crown vic

It’s official. I’m getting old, and I’m positive this is happening because everything I know and love is rapidly disappearing right before my eyes. The aging process alone is distressing enough as it is. But add to it receiving that first letter from AARP, new-fangled gadgets such as the “I” everything’s (I-Phone, I-Pad, I-Pod), weird music that really doesn’t resemble music, and the “F” word spewing from the mouths of nearly every kid in the 4th grade, well, it’s beyond distressing. Downright anxiety-inducing, if you ask me.

Yes, I know aging is a natural process, and with it comes (or goes) a lot of things we’ve held dear for our entire lives—hair, a trim waistline, memory, eyesight, strong backs, good knees, finger dexterity, speedy reaction time, soft skin, and well, you get the idea.

And getting older shoves all the good things aside, replacing them with odd little ugly things, such as:

– that once wavy mane of 80’s rock-band hair morphs into a peculiar-shaped hairless orb

– eyeglasses with super-thick lenses replace $200 super-cool sunglasses

– sports cars replaced by minivans

– comfortable tennis shoes replace dress shoes, even when going out

– going out is a trip to the grocery store, or a visit to the proctologist

– a quiet evening at home means turning down the volume on your hearing aids, not an intimate dinner party of six

– rolling a joint means to massage the pain from your knees, fingers, and feet

– listening to music no longer means turning on the radio to hear people sing beautiful melodies. Instead, we now turn on the radio to hear some guy using bad grammar to rapidly recite nonsensical, profanity-laced rhymes to the beat of a computerized, artificial bass guitar and drums (at least by listening to this crap on the radio we’re spared seeing the constant crotch-grabbing and dance-partner-humping).

– singers don’t sing. Singers don’t even have to be able to sing. Instead, a “gadget” harnesses their out-of-tune lyrics and mechanically brings the screeching tones into pitch. Anyone can become a singer these days. I won’t name names, but anyone, anyone, anyone ~ subliminal message here…Taylor Swift, Black Eyes Peas ~ can have a top-selling record.

– awards presented to actors and musicians used to mean something. Not anymore. Nowadays there’s at least one for everybody, sometimes more. And yes, even the fast-talking rhyming folks get them for “singing.”

– even the people who can’t sing but use the auto-tuners to dupe us into thinking they can sing win awards for “singing.”

What ever happened to folks who had real singing talent? Folks like Frank, Bing, Dean, Robert Plant, Aretha, Dionne, Barbara, and Paul McCartney?

Speaking of Paul McCartney, did you see the Twitter boards light up in response to Sir Paul’s performance on the recent “award” show? Most of the trending tweets were something like, “Who the hell is this Paul McCartney dude?” “Who’s the old white guy?”

Yes, it’s definitely a sign that times are changing when people don’t have a clue about Paul McCartney and his contribution to music and to the world as a musician.

I know. These are all signs that I’m getting old.

But the Geritol really hit the spoon when I learned of the plans to phase out the old standard police car, Ford’s Crown Victoria.

I drove a Chevrolet Caprice for several years. Mine was midnight blue with dark-tinted windows in the rear. The tint was installed so people couldn’t see who, if anyone, was in the backseat. That way I could drive an informant through a neighborhood so he could point out all the hotspots without anyone knowing what I was up to. And, the CI’s identity could remain anonymous. Plus, the darkened windows added a bit of mystery to me and the car. Kept the bad guys guessing.

My old “Blue Ghost” reached it’s top speed of 80mph, or so, when we were rolling downhill with my foot squashing the accelerator to the floor (all my successful pursuits terminated on the downhill side of the city). It was a tough old car and I loved it, passing up a couple of new rides in favor of keeping the car with a seat that was perfectly molded to the shape of my own downhill side of town.

I also drove a Crown Vic for a while, and that was one tough, beefy car. I used it on a few pit maneuvers and to chase down murder suspects, bank robbers, and escaped convicts. It was a great car. Actually, I drove a few Crown Vic’s during my career. A couple of them were take-home cars that also served as my office. In fact, I’d used the car to ferry my daughter to sporting events, driven it in several parades, and took it to various school events as show and tell for kids.

The Vic and The Ghost often served as safe sanctuaries for victims of abuse, rape, attempted murder, and assault, where they’d wait with the doors locked while I dealt with their attacker(s). The car’s heater warmed the tiny legs and arms of abused children whose homes had no heat when I found them inside, alone and shivering. I kept treats in the console for the younger folks who had nothing. The trunk held my riot gear, a shotgun, and other tools of the trade. But it was also home to several stuffed animals I ‘d bought for the kids who simply needed to hug something after mommy or daddy had used them as punching bags.

Driving slowly through neighborhoods with my windows down was just something I did. I’d pass by kids and old folks who all knew my first name. They’d wave and I’d wave back, and I’d often stop to speak or to get out and sit on someone’s front porch to talk about whatever was on their mind. Children knew The Vic and The Ghost, and they knew it meant someone was there to keep them safe, or to toss them a football.

Now, sadly, the Vic’s are gone. Replaced by big powerful cars with huge thunderous engines. Cars that can easily reach 150mph and beyond.

I see them zoom by on the highways, thinking back to the days when I wore a badge and drove the highways traveling to and from calls. And I can’t help wondering if there’s a teddy bear in the trunk of that passing Charger or Impala.

I certainly hope that’s a part of police work that never grows old.

  1. Mike Kelly
    Mike Kelly says:

    I know a lot of the departments around here are getting Dodge Chargers simply because it’s a new rule put in force by the state DOJ that they have to have “Highway Rated Vehicles” … Whatever that means. With the interstate and a US Hwy that goes right through our area (rural) I kind of understand it. But I agree, the Crown Vic was a monument to the police officer’s image… But around here the Charger is taking over, and it’s becoming the new image, but some of them are actually pretty good looking.

    As for the teddy bears … They aren’t necessarily in the trunk of all the vehicles, and some don’t carry them … But every friend of mine who is a police officer, carries one in his/her duty bag… I know once I find employment, that will be something that is a mandatory part of my duty bag. I’ll never leave home without it. That, and a box of Kleenex.

  2. Shirley Watson
    Shirley Watson says:

    Thanks for doing what you do – or did, now. I can definitely completely relate to the aging rant and I agree with it all except that I love my minivan! I didn’t get it until just recently and I found I sit higher, thus helping with being blinded at night by those brighter headlights. Also hauls a lot of stuff around.

  3. Ron DeLaby
    Ron DeLaby says:

    Question: How do you switch from an adrenalin charged face-off with an armed bank robber one second to comforting a victim of some horrible crime the next?

    Well, Dave – You shove it down deep inside of you and you keep shoving it until you retire, or in some cases, you run out of room and it shoves back.

    Policemen aren’t supposed to cry, but have you ever been to a police funeral and hear the lonely wailing of Taps and watch a sobbing widow receive a flag? Maybe stand outside a hospital E.R. to be told the child you had rushed in didn’t make it? Some eat maalox like candy. Some become cynical and sometimes bitter: The gallows sense of humor; the “them and us” mentality; and sometimes, alcoholism, divorce and suicide.

    You switch because you have to, but it never goes away. Sometimes, many years later, when you’re old and gray, and the memories fade, you might sleep all through the night, untroubled by nightmares. Maybe some day you can learn to sit in a restaurant with your wife and not have her sit with her back to the door. Maybe you can look at a young person on the street and not wonder if he’s packing. Maybe, but probably not.

    Then you have to ask…Was it all worth it?

    Yeah. It was.

  4. Nike Chillemi
    Nike Chillemi says:

    The Crown Vic sure is an icon. A classic.

    I miss writing something akin to…He turned on his heel, got into the Crown Vic and fired it up.

    Lee, you’re not older. You’re better…aged like a fine wine. 🙂

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    You know, there is absolutely no need for all that speed. Anyone, including the police, are endangering a lot of people when driving at super high rates of speed. There are too many variables to consider – pedestrians, oncoming vehicles, tire failure, road hazards, etc.

    Sure, Nascar drivers race at 200mph, but they’re on a closed course with other professional drivers who’re secured in place with all sorts of protective gear and equipment. That’s not the case in police cars.

  6. Katherine Nyborg
    Katherine Nyborg says:

    Most of the patrol officers here in Seattle have stuffed animals in their kit. The officers I talked to said it was the equipment they were glad to use the most, even if sometimes it was the hardest.

    I have a friend who is in Ford Fleet Services and he told me a couple of years ago that the Crown Vic wasn’t being picked up anymore by LEOs … not like it used to. It made HIM feel old, too.

  7. Diana
    Diana says:

    There was a mention of TV here in Australia that some police forces on your side of the pond are buying specially built Holdens from Australia. I think they are manufacturing them in South Australia specifically for police work and they do about 200mph. If I remember they have deep boots (trunks in the USA) to carry equipment, heavy duty glass windows – all sorts of goodies.

  8. Kate George
    Kate George says:

    Lee, I wanted to say thank you on behalf of the children, and adults as well, who sat in your car with heat and the comfort of safety and maybe a stuffed bear. People like you make the world just a little more tolerable.

  9. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Ah, the big old roomy cars of yesteryear, when it was advisable to pack a light lunch just to move from one end of the car to the other.

    Well, maybe they weren’t that big, but they had a lot more room than they do now. That’s very important when you spend one third of your day in a police car.

    As you pointed out, Lee, that change is just the tip of the iceberg when you list all of the things that are different now in law enforcement.

    And you’re not old yet. You’re a little younger than I am. Just a kid! 🙂

  10. Dave
    Dave says:

    As long as there are caring, committed officers behind the wheel there will be teddy bears in the trunk.

    Question: How do you switch from an adrenalin charged face-off with an armed bank robber one second to comforting a victim of some horrible crime the next?

  11. Bob Mueller
    Bob Mueller says:

    Lee, do you have an opinion on the Carbon E7? It looks like a good design to me, but I’ve been way out of the business for a long time.

    And I recall the teddy bear program back in the 80s. It was a good idea then, and still is.