It was pretty easy to spot a police car in Vermont in the years around the turn of the century. Local or state officers were likely behind the wheel of a singularly iconic car: the Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor. But no longer.
"It was very easily recognizable, there’s no question about that, which sometimes can be an advantage or sometimes a disadvantage," said Corporal Mark Magnant.
He's been with the Vermont State Police for 21 years, and in law enforcement for even longer. And he’s quite familiar with the storied Crown Vic.
"When I started in 1993, those were the first police cruiser platforms that I knew, and pretty much drove exclusively."
But now the time of the Crown Vic has come to an end.
Despite being a recognizable police car on many American roads, they were actually all made in Canada. Ford is no longer making the sedan; production ended in 2011. Parts have become harder to find and the vehicles are showing their age.
The Vermont state police took their last Crown Vic out of active service in November 2018.
Despite driving the cars for decades, Cpl. Magnant says he and other officers are not feeling nostalgic.
"A rear-wheel drive vehicle in Vermont, with the different weather conditions we experience, the different road conditions and things like that, sometimes could be a bit of a challenge," he recalls.
But a weary smile gives voice to just how difficult some of those challenges were.
"It would happen on occasion where you might ... get stuck," he says.
"I recall after being assigned my state police vehicle, a couple U-turns that had not been completely plowed out, and not realizing, pulling in and not coming out the other side. You pull into where the snow banks had been piled up from the plows and really, literally almost taking your life into your own hands trying to get out of those U-turns, not being able to see over the tops of them really, just due to height limitations of the vehicle itself."
The problems didn't get any easier off the highway.
"[I was] talking to one of our detectives who reminded me he used to carry snowshoes in the trunk of his Crown Victoria cruiser because it wasn’t a guarantee that he’d be able to get everywhere that he needed to go, and sometimes he’d have to strap on snowshoes to be able to get to some of the places, calls that he’d need to get to," Cpl. Mangant says.
"I can certainly appreciate that," he adds. "I remember hiking in quite a distance some times to get places just because the vehicles wouldn’t make it."
Today, the illustrious police sedan is being replaced—for the most part—by larger SUVs.
Cpl. Magnant says that makes for safer winter driving, more room for gear and equipment, and even an easier time transporting people in the back of the vehicle.
And he says even small upgrades in the newer cars are a welcome addition.
“Little features that we have in these, that folks might take for granted in their civilian vehicles [like] power windows, power door locks, having the dashboard thermometer in the vehicle."
That last feature is a tool Cpl. Magnant says is critical during a Vermont winter.
"Being able to actually see the weather transition, as the temperature drops, and watching and monitoring that, which is really helpful for being able to adjust our driving, and planning," he says.
"I can’t tell you how many times in the Crown Victoria’s, I’d be like, wondering, like what is, where is the temperature at right now? We know we’re within five degrees of freezing. But where are we at, exactly? ... It was kind of a crapshoot."
The Crown Victoria sedans may now be off the road, but they’re not totally gone.
The State Police Fleet Services preserved one 1997 model for posterity, marking both the car's first year in service for VSP and the 50th anniversary of the state police.
The last police sedan taken off the road in Vermont will be sold at state auction in Berlin on Saturday, May 11.
Broadcast on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.