Cover me patrolman

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Ford Motor Co. has a new surveillance system for police cars that automatically sounds a chime, locks the doors and puts up the windows if it detects someone approaching the car from behind.  The system – which Ford is patenting – is the first of its kind. Backup cameras and sensors usually only work when a car is in reverse. The new system, dubbed “Surveillance Mode,” allows an officer to use them while the car is parked.  An image from the backup camera is beamed onto the rearview mirror, so the officer can keep an eye on the rear of the car.  If someone comes too close, four sensors on the rear bumper will detect them.  The system works during the day and at night, when officers are often the most vulnerable.

Surveillance Mode is the brainchild of Randy Freiburger, a Ford engineer who works with police and ambulance customers to make sure the company’s vehicles are meeting their needs.  He got the idea last August while accompanying Yoon Nam, a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Nam was asked to respond to a report of a possible drug offense in a gritty area of Compton, California.  She told Freiburger to stay in the car and radio for help if he needed it while she went to talk to the suspect.  When the suspect took off running and Nam followed him, Freiburger found himself alone, with another suspect approaching him.

Nam tried not to lose sight of Freiburger, and she radioed for help.  Both suspects were eventually caught and convicted of drug crimes.  But a shaken Freiburger wanted to help make police feel less vulnerable when they’re on patrol.

Ford dominated the police market for decades in the US with the Crown Victoria sedan, but it lost some sales after it discontinued the rear-wheel-drive Crown Victoria in 2011 and replaced it with all-wheel-drive police vehicles based on the Taurus sedan and Explorer SUV.  Some departments that prefer rear-wheel-drive cars for their speed in chases have switched to the Dodge Charger or Chevrolet Caprice.