Gavin Green on the cult of high-performance police cars

Published: 18 January 2011

I’m all for the proliferation of supercars. If there were more Ferraris, Porsches, big-money BMWs and mercurial Mercs on our streets, our roads would be far more cheerful and interesting. I also generally find supercar drivers reverentially law-abiding. On the wide three-laners, Ferraris invariably seem to be barp-barp-barping in the slow lane, leaving the Transits and Astravans to provide the fireworks in lane three.

Police say the Lotus will ‘deter speeders’

But news that police in the West Midlands are to get a Lotus Evora makes me uneasy. The cops justify the use of a high-speed supercar – Britain’s fastest-ever police car – because ‘it will provide an effective deterrent to anyone thinking of speeding’ (eh?) and ‘will remind drivers of the need to keep to the speed limit at all times’ (how does a 160mph car do this?). Most worrying of all, it will ‘provide a great deterrent to anyone trying to outrun us’.

Police reality TV shows prove futility of car chases

Now I don’t know about you, but every time I watch those stupid real-life cop shows like Police Camera Action! that are peppered with police chases, I often think that the police drivers come across more sterling tossers than Stirling Mosses. Most high-speed chases strike me as totally unnecessary. They merely exacerbate the danger to the public by making the pursued vehicle go faster and adding a second speeding vehicle (the police car). You then get some sanctimonious police officer rabbiting on about his special driver training, as though that’s justification for doing a Lewis Hamilton down Leytonstone High Street.

Of course, high-speed emergency runs are sometimes necessary. (I remember once meeting a valiant WPC who spoke movingly about her dash to get to the home of a woman who was being attacked.) But high-speed cop chases belong on Miami Vice, not on British motorways or main roads. Introducing a 162mph Lotus ‘to deter anyone trying to outrun us’ is a prospect that is likely to terrify, rather than reassure, regular users of the M6 and M42.

Mind you, European police forces have run a high-speed supercar at least once before. Those strutting peacocks in the Italian polizia di stato ran a Lamborghini Gallardo, seized from a convicted drug dealer. Unsurprisingly, it was soon written off.

By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience