Motorists might do a double take the first time they drive by one of the Bakersfield Police Department's new patrol cars.
The department's new Ford Interceptors are vehicles that attract notice, with a design that could be described as something out of a science fiction film and with features that police say will make patrol duties a little easier for officers.
The car handles better, said Senior Police Officer Bryon Sandrini, noting that its all-wheel drive makes it more stable.
The seating is custom built for officers wearing utility belts, but other than that there aren't many changes to the interior of the vehicle, Sandrini said. The Interceptors for the BPD also feature strobe lights on the front sides of the vehicle to get other drivers' attention when officers are in an intersection and on an emergency response.
Sandrini said the added features are for officer safety, but people they've come across have been impressed by the design.
"Every day people are honking, waving and saying, "That's a good-looking car,'" the senior officer said.
The department began looking for replacement vehicles about a year ago after Ford discontinued its Crown Victoria line of cars. Sandrini said the BPD had used Crown Victorias for decades, and in replacing them considered Dodge Chargers and Chevy Caprices before settling on the Interceptors.
Sandrini said five or six Interceptors are currently being used by patrol officers, and others will be deployed as the department's Crown Victorias go out of service. The Crown Victorias typically got about 120,000 miles, and Sandrini said he's hoping the Interceptors get a comparable amount of mileage before having to be replaced.
Police spokeswoman Michaela Beard said the department plans to purchase a total of 40 vehicles at $23,000 each. The vehicles were included in last year's city budget.
Capt. Joe Bianco added that, for anyone looking to drive the new cars, the department will have 15 to 20 positions available by the time of the next training academy in July. The BPD has an academy under way that began in January, plus there will be the one in July and maybe even one next January due to the number of expected openings.
Part of the reason for the hiring is retirements, and part of it's added positions through grants such as one for $1.4 million from the Department of Justice that the BPD learned it had received last July.
Applicants can start registering now for the next academy. Registration ends March 7, and those interested can go to the City of Bakersfield website, click on "regular job listings," and then click on "police trainee" to read the requirements of the position and how to register.