But these days, being green is just as important as being cool.
The Turlock Police Department took the wraps off four brand-new Trikke EV carving vehicles Thursday, which offer a green, all-electric alternative to the old squad car.
“I don't know what I'm doing,” shouted one officer as she whizzed through an obstacle course during a Thursday training session. “It's awesome!”
Trikkes look a bit like a Segway, but with three wheels instead of two. And the Trikkes offer an athletic, sporty ride perfect for chases, unlike a Segway's more passive vertical stance.
The vehicles were invented in Brazil, developed as a recreational way to carve down hills like a skier. Motors were eventually fitted to the Trikkes, making them useful for police patrols while still retaining their sporty characteristics. The Trikke's 48-volt, 350-watt electric motor has a 30-mile range and can hit a top speed of 18 miles-per-hour.
To the Turlock Police Department, the Trikkes primarily offer a new alternative to bike patrols. The Trikkes will be commonly used to patrol big events like the Stanislaus County Fair, parades, Black Friday shopping, and also on routine downtown patrols.
One of the biggest benefits of the Trikke is it's near-silent operation, like a bike, letting officers silently approach a subject.
“They can't prepare what they're going to say, do,” said Officer Paul Heppner. “You're going to catch them in the moment.”
And the Trikkes are more useful than bikes in some ways.
The Trikkes' high top speed makes them more mobile than bikes, and more useful in chases. And the higher vantage point allows officers to see over crowds.
“You can ride in normal clothes, don't have to wear spandex,” said Trikke representative Laura Bone. “And you can throw this in the trunk of a car.”
That lets an officer drive somewhere, then patrol via Trikke,
Most important to Turlock Police Chief Robert Jackson, though, are the added opportunities for public interaction the Trikke provides. Without a door and window separating officers from the neighborhood, as in a cop car, it's easier for citizens to approach their police officers and get to know them.
“There are all kinds of purposes as to what we can use these for,” Jackson said.
On Thursday officers were excited just to get their hands on the new toys, learning basic maneuvers as they carved through slalom courses and turned on a dime. Further training on advanced maneuvers, like curb jumping, may come at a “Top Gun” style academy in Las Vegas.
The Turlock Police Department received the four Trikkes for, believe it or not, free. Each vehicle's full $4,715.78 cost was covered by a grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
A second part of that grant will see the department purchase four Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid cars. The vehicles would cost $31,188 each, but the air district will pay $20,000 of each vehicle's cost. The cars, which can achieve 50 miles per gallon, will replace existing fleet vehicles in need of replacement.
To learn more about Trikkes, visit http://www.trikke.com/. To see a Trikke in motion, watch the video below.