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Why people collect police cars and emergency vehicles

Over the last several months, we've covered several topics regarding these unique vehicles and what is involved in their restoration, along with some history on the equipment used. Now, at this point, some of you who are not directly into this segment of collector cars might be wondering about who we are. What I mean is what person would want to restore and show, of all things, a police car. Are that many cops out there that want to own an older cop car and take it around to shows and parades?

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Our segment of collecting is definitely a growing segment of the hobby. There are a number of events that are held every year that bears this out to be true. The Chicagoland show held its 11th successful year this year. Ferndale is scheduled for another good year next year. The Ripon show in Menlo Park, California is again just around the corner. The Tuned by Tuna show which gets a significant EV showing held another great event recently.

Well, first, not all of us are directly involved in law enforcement. There are a significant number of us that are, however. Some are active, some retired. There are also a number of us that are affiliated in other branches of public safety from emergency management to EMS. You can easily understand how this major segment of collectors would be able to appreciate these cars and what they are about. We all either used these cars or were around them every day of our working lives.

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What about the rest of us, those that haven't had a career in public service? These are people that have a respect for what these cars stand for and the uniqueness of how they have been made and equipped. There is no other car quite like a police car. They also do what the others do with affiliations, wish to honor those that have, and still do, work to protect the public trust. This is no different than what ambulance and fire apparatus restorers do, honor those that are there to help us in our hour of need.

Every time another police car, ambulance or fire truck is restored, it pays homage to those that work unselfishly, career or volunteer, to be there when someone is in trouble. These vehicles have to be manned. Otherwise, they are just useless machines. A particular vehicle doesn't have to be dedicated to an officer or agency to be a point of honor. They just are.

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Some of us do choose to honor a particular service member for a variety of reasons. For example, when I debuted my 1976 police car at the Police Week ceremonies in Washington, DC several years ago, I had dedicated it to a friend that I worked with, but relocated to Reading, Pennsylvania, and was subsequently killed in the line of duty there. My Dodge is permanently dedicated to a locally based state trooper who was killed in the line of duty in 2005. I didn't personally know Corporal Pokorny, but his senseless death touched a lot of lives in this area. Some things are just the right things to do.

As I have stated in the past, ownership of these vehicles entails more responsibility than other collector cars. These are not commissioned vehicles of a governmental entity. It does not matters if the owner is a commissioned law enforcement officer, emergency manager, paramedic, or fire fighter. The same issues can be present for owners of fire trucks and ambulances. We all have to subscribe to a higher plane of behavior when operating these vehicles on public roads and at events.

There are few laws in place anywhere that address the private ownership of emergency vehicles. The ones that are in place are definitely not to our benefit. I have spoke of Colorado and New Hampshire passing laws regarding lighting that have significantly hampered our efforts. Our behavior can be a factor in whether or not more of these restrictive laws are passed in the future in any given state. This is largely why EVOOA adopted an ethics code that all members have to adhere to as a condition of membership. It can be viewed publicly on our web site. From the feedback we have received from numerous police agencies since its inception, it should be viewed as a model for behavior for owners affiliated or not.

The good news is that the overwhelming percentages of owners already behave in the manner befitting being a part of the EV hobby. This bodes well for everyone in the as we are judged by the company we keep, right or wrong. We had, and still do have, a minute segment of collectors that are what we call "problem children." These individuals call very negative attention to themselves, and too often to us all by association. They seem to thrive on personal agendas and have created their own kind of anarchy in the process. Several just have behaved in a lesser than responsible way at shows and just in traveling to events. The Internet has been a tool for a few of them to create chaos, as certain individuals feel empowered behind the keyboard where they wouldn't in real life situations.

The distances that are virtually shortened by the Internet empower these people for another reason; it is often difficult for face-to-face confrontations when people live hundreds or thousands of miles apart. We have to all keep policing our ranks or, as I've also said numerous times, this hobby can easily be legislated out of existence. Those that do behave badly need to seriously rethink their actions or leave the hobby. Often, they eventually get themselves in enough hot water with other collectors, and on occasion the law; and fade away in time. The damage they create sometimes takes a long time to be forgotten; including driving legitimate collectors out of the hobby because they simply don't want to deal any longer with the vortex the problem children have created. This is sad.

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One point of controversy among collectors is the older vs. the newer. There are a significant number of us who believe that newer vehicles do not belong in the hobby. There are those that say that anything newer than early 1990s should not be recognized as a collector police car. The concerns largely come from the issues with impersonation and "wannabes". The impersonation issues should be easy to recognize with newer vehicles. There are some agencies that have late 1990s cars still in service and they all too closely resemble current vehicles, especially unmarked.

The "wannabe" is someone that wishes to emulate being a cop. I'll spare you all the psychobabble here, also. They do this by buying a retired police car and making it look too much like an actual police vehicle. They may not go out on the road and try acting like an officer, but the dangers are all too real.

There is a segment of collectors that do have more modern vehicles and act totally responsible to the hobby and I do not want these people to be lumped in the rest. They have more of an affinity to the current and like them better than older ones. Unfortunately, these owners all too often get lumped into the mix by other more parochial collectors. While we try to weed out the owners that have less than honorable reasons for having the cars they do, it is a difficult task at the least. This will continue to be a point of contention amongst owners for a long time to come.

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So you see, there are several dynamics that set us apart from the rest. We're not better or worse, just a bit different.

I hope this edition illuminated some of you on who we are. We have some tough issues to deal with and a few that make it tougher. Still, we persevere and grow in our ranks.

Well, it's time to head off duty and into the barn…..

Until next time, stay safe, enjoy the remainder of the summer, and keep saving those copcars!!!

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