Know Your Swine

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It used to be pretty easy to pick out the pork. If you noticed a refrigerator white Ford Crown Vic up ahead – without AARP stickers on the bumper and with a bullet-headed driver – it was time to ease off the gas and fade into the crowd. The Dodge Charger was – and still is – another car to always be suspicious of.

Both were- and still are – pretty easy to ID, especially the Vic (which almost no one except the ancient or the oinky drive) but chiefly because they are sedans and sedans have become much less common than they used to be as crossovers and SUVs have become the “car” of choice for most Americans.

And now – sadly – cops, too.

If you haven’t noticed this, you’d better start paying attention. The new vehicles of choice for revenue collection are SUVs like the Ford Explorer, which has replaced the Crown Vic as the primary Blue Oval tool of mobile taxation. Ford doesn’t refer to it as the Explorer. It is styled the Police Interceptor Utility. Among other upgrades – at our expense – it is equipped with “level III and IV” ballistic door panels, as well as the usual cop-specific hardware upgrades.

Check it out, here.

The version to be especially concerned about is the one equipped with the twin-turbo, 365 hp 3.5 liter V6 and AWD. This one can make up the difference between you and a light-the-wig-wags/pull a U-turn hot pursuit much more quickly than the soggy 250 hp Vic. And because the Police Interceptor Utility is equipped with AWD and has ground clearance, it can go places and handle conditions the Vic couldn’t.

Like grass. Be aware of this if you’re on a bike. Officer less-than-friendly can follow you off-road. Might be lurking off-road. I live near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia – patrolled by federal Park Pork. They use the Ford SUV now.   

Like snow.

It’s no longer safe to assume the swine are in their pen due to inclement weather. They have all-weather hooves now.

They also blend in far more effectively, because ordinary Explorers (and other SUVs and crossovers) are everywhere and driven by pretty much everyone. You see a white one up ahead with a young guy driving. He might be an armed government worker. Or he might just be a young guy.

What was it Dirty Harry said all those years ago?

Do you feel lucky?

Also, the ones we need to worry about are often camouflaged. Not just unmarked. With few exterior give-aways that it’s canned pork. The wig wags are built sneakily into the grillwork and are unnoticeable until the bullet-head switches them on. Stuff you used to be able to spot at a distance such as radar equipment is – like all electronic stuff – smaller now than it used to be and hard to see unless you’re right up close, by which time it is too late.

Even marked “units” are much more stealthy. Ambush predators know the value of blending in, so flashy graphics are giving way to matte-finish Harass and Collect stickers you can barely see, even if close and not at all if you’re 50 yards away (well within radar gun range). Exterior roof rack lights are “low profile” – almost flush-mounted – and very hard to pick out from a distance, in a crowd.

It’s dirty pool, old man.

And it’s going to get dirtier.

State, county and city governments are hungrier than ever for “revenue” – our money, taken by force – but it has become politically difficult to raise “revenue” directly, by overt tax increases. Traffic tickets, on the other hand, are a handy way to bulk up the budget – and can be imposed randomly and arbitrarily – which gives people the illusion they aren’t going to be the ones paying.

This is the best kind of tax, from the point of view of those imposing (and collecting) it. Cater to people’s moral indifference to the abuse of their fellow man.

The problem with that thinking is that virtually everyone is vulnerable to being today’s fish in the barrel. Everyone “speeds” – because speed limits are set absurdly low. And if it’s not “speeding,” then they’ll get you for some other thing. The roster of “violations” is almost infinite at this point.

If a cop decides to ticket you, he is going to find something to ticket you for.

Well, what can we do? Play the same dirty pool, right back at ’em.

In my state – Virginia – radar detectors are illegal. So of course I have one. (I use the Valentine 1, which is a top-shelf unit that has saved me thousands of dollars in tickets and insurance mafia “surcharges.”)

It is actually better for me that radar detectors are illegal, because it gives me the advantage. Cops assume most people don’t have them, and so run their radar constantly rather than use Instant On mode, which takes more effort.

Swine are notoriously lazy creatures.

They key, regardless, is avoidance. In states where radar detectors are legal (everywhere except VA) always try to have someone else in front of you. This will protect you from Instant On, much in the same way that being second-in-line behind the guy walking point in Vietnam saved you from an AK-47 round right between the eyes.

And be wary of SUVs, especially Ford SUVs.

There are still some giveaways: Deep-tint windows (they’re entitled; this is forbidden to us) and black-painted steel (not aluminum alloy) wheels, which are police-specific.

Watch out for Chevy Tahoes, too.

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  1. Years ago, there was a guy selling what was called a CHiPs detector.basically, it would warn you when you got within a certain distance of a police radio, presumably in a police car.

    Seems like it would still work today, especially in a state like Virginia, where I kept my radar detector off and my speed at 75.

      • Yeah, that’s the idea. A RADAR detector sees radio signals and is illegal. But a detector that searches for police radio signal strength, not specifically RADAR, would seem to be legal in VA.

        Since all police cars have police radios,it would seem to still be an excellent way to detect things like laser, which can nail you without much you can do about it.

        Let’s get Mike Valentine working on it.

    • Tom, that was back in the day when big rig operators ran GPS detectors too. GPS back then was almost exclusive to cop cars so they’d know where they were when somebody offed them after being stopped. It was the next best thing to the just-outlawed radar detectors for commercial vehicles. When the GPS meter howled you slowed down and looked for smoky. Some state patrolmen got away with turning their GPS off in rural areas where the pickin’s were slim.

  2. In all of this, never forget a couple of giant myths regarding cops:

    “Cops know how to drive cars really fast”: That is absolute bunk. These characters are no better at driving than Raul Castro or Daniel Ortega. And knowing how to spell “PIT maneuver” doesn’t make you Junior Johnson.

    “Cops know all about guns”: Another pile of crap. Most know less about guns than even Jared Fogle or Daniel Holtzclaw.

    • Hi Algyr,

      I’ve personally out-driven several swine; not bragging. Just stating. Training can help, but some people just have the knack – while most don’t.

      • Back in the ’90s when our local P.D. started getting new cruisers to replace their aging Dodges there was a rash of (new) cop car vs. stationary object crashes. I guess some of them thought they were Michael Schumacher or something. Tried looking up some of the news articles but no dice…
        I recall a State Trooper maybe two years ago managed to wreck his cruiser on the highway near here. Truck driver friend of mine saw some of it (I saw the aftermath) and claimed the cop was going north of 100 mph in traffic with lights on but no siren. Scared the crap out of him when he flew past. Judging by the skid marks/crash trajectory that I saw it looked like the cop had to swerve for merging traffic near an onramp and lost control. There was brief mention of it in the news but I never could find any follow up on the incident.
        Then there was this gem which still survives on youtube:

      • eric, out running cops was my raison d’etre for many years. I once came up on a hot Nova SS out on the open road, a divided by barditch 4 lane. I was messing with him since he wanted to race and while doing this we rounded a big hill and there’s a DPS coming at us guns ablazing so to speak. Both of us could and did outrun him but I left the Nova behind and ran about 20 miles to an intersection of another major highway.

        I turned off on it and hauled ass east to my hometown, made that 33 miles in half that time and stopped in to fuel up and shoot the shit with the station owner and some others. We’re standing around and that same Nova sees my car and pulls in. The guy is sorta hot and miffed at my sitting there chilling out. It seems they set up a roadblock, something I was unaware of since they set it up behind me but in front of him. He’d just been reamed and wasn’t happy. He asked why they didn’t stop me. Roadblock? I asked, no roadblock when I came through. It’s one of those “You can outrun the cop but not the radio” stories that was true for him but not for me…..ever. That’s where that really high top-end comes in handy.

        That happened back in the days when somebody would see you coming, match your speed and then do something like hold up 3 fingers which meant “I’m in 3rd gear to your 4th”. That guy did that so side by side, I dropped to 3rd and then to 2nd(close-ratio Muncie). He had a look of disbelief but still wanted to make me prove it. That old 327 would rev so high it sounded like a jet. It was unbelievable to all but a few back then you could make 440 or 450 hp with a 327. You still can and I saw one in Hot Rod recently that chunked out 456 HP on the dyno.

  3. Don’t forget about the unmarked performance squads. Typically Mustangs and Camaro’s. Here in Indiana regular state cops have fairly easy to spot white Dodge Chargers, but they also have unmarked Mustangs and Camaro’s of ANY color. They even had a Corvette for a while that they had seized from some poor chap.

    The hidden squads actually go against the “safety” regime that is otherwise pushed on us. It makes it so easy to be a “fake” cop now-a-days. IMHO traffic stops should only be allowed with white and yellow clearly marked cars (like European cops) for that reason alone. Unmarked cars should never be allowed to stop someone.

  4. Good points.

    I really, really miss the Dodge Diplomats swine pens circa early eighties. You could spot the checkered grills in front of the running lights a mile away. Seems nobody expect swine drove a Diplomat (for good reason).

    The Impalas were easy to spot, but suffered from everyone and his brother having one (much like the Explorer problem we have today).

  5. Hard to beat the federal marshall’s cars, because they use them for surveillance & stakeouts too. Saw a minivan, with little stick figure family decals including the dog, on tailgate window, pull up for an arrest at a house in a nearby neighborhood. Also deployed, a plain white, newer, chevvie pickup, and a Taurus sedan.

    About the only way to be relatively confident any type car is not some sort of hero mobile is if it’s foreign made. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few practically invisible cop Camrys out there somewhere. Just don’t have a confirmed sighting yet.

    Hey, it’s all just an escalation of the age old contest. And most of the deepest undercover units are not primarily used for traffic enforcement. Motorists simply need to be aware, and elevate their game.

    My outrage is reserved for the Nazi style, allegedly DUI Check, random roadblocks.

  6. The scariest are Amtrak police. They can have an unmarked vehicle with an out-of-state plate, such as NJ, and have a VTL book for NYS.

  7. That’s especially tricky when it’s some weird agency, like the NYC Department of Environmental Protection police, yes, they get VTL books.

  8. Be aware that any porker in NYS can write a ticket in any jurisdiction in NYS for all of VTL. For NYC, they have to call in dispatch to get permission, but otherwise, if they have a VTL book, they can write a ticket anywhere within the state. A Sheriff’s deputy from upstate can write a ticket in Westchester.

    • In such states you really have to anger the ones that are out of their jurisdiction though. Why? It has no/little monetary value for them to write the ticket. Typically the revenue goes to the jurisdiction of the violation because department A doesn’t want department B poaching in their favorite fishing holes.

      • Well the punishment is the process of the ticket. Even if you somehow get out of it, without paying a direct fine (rare), its still costs you time and money. You still have to take time off from work (losing a days pay), spend a day at the courthouse (your time). So your punished even if found innocent.

        And to many porkers, who know it won’t stick, still think it’s worth it for them. The hassle of it all for you is their reward.

        Oh, by the way, police in Indiana have police powers state wide too. I am guessing that is the case in most of the US (or it soon will be). Won’t be surprised if it becomes national someday as the feds take more control of local departments.

        • It’s that way in Illinois too… but I’ve never seen anyone stopped even when they pass the cop. They have to get angry about something to do it.

  9. Be aware that there is at least one unmarked cop car in NYPD’s arsenal that looks identical to a gold fleet taxi cab. I’ve seen it as far afield as Yonkers on the BRP.

  10. In addition to these SUVs and ford fusions the Illinois State Police don’t run many speed traps these days. Instead they cruise at about 85-100+mph (which can result in jail time in the Chicago area for ordinary people) and then pick off someone going slower than they are. I have been a victim of it and I’ve seen it done.

    For the decades prior to the last couple years when a member of the ISP was driving over 80mph just get out of their way and they would drive on down the road. That stopped a couple years ago. I’ve had ISP cruisers pass me by, zero in on someone way up in front of me (that had passed me earlier), stalk them, and then pull them over. I’ve watched this cruising at the absurdly low 55mph PSL. No speed traps were passed through.

    Another problem, with the use of hidden light bars the cops are not aiming up their headlamps as often. This glaring up-aim made it clear a cop was lurking behind you. They could be spotted from a considerable distance at night.

    The remaining thing to look for is the spot light. These things are as big as they ever were. They try to fold them in and hide them, but this appendage is really the last easy-ish thing to spot.

    • It used to be that one could sometimes see the outline of their shotgun/rifle sticking up in the center between the passenger and driver seats. I think the SUVs are too high up for that.

  11. CT state police drive unmarked modern Ford sedans, but the grey color they get is something no-one would ever volunteer to buy, so they stick out like a sore thumb.

  12. In Detroit, many cop cars are shiny black with flat black lettering…with cop lights on the inside of the vehicle…almost impossible to spot at any distance…other communities are latching on to this scheme…

    • We’re seeing more departments in PA use these, too. Fortunately, they’re local departments (only the PA state police are permitted to run radar), but they’re still irritating.

      What really bothers me about the unmarked/low-profile police thing is that it is an overt representation that traffic enforcement isn’t about safety and most people simply don’t care. If it was about safety (or well, at least getting people to drive more slowly), we’d see marked and obvious cars all over the place.

      • When I lived in NJ the staties wore those, along with calf length leather boots. Seemed like they were looking for some S&M action.

        • Hi Mike,

          I think they still do (and are)!

          Watch the Amazon adaptation of Philip Dick’s novel, Man in the High Castle. You’ll be humming Edelweiss for the next several days…

          • eric, is that available on DVD? Wouldn’t you just love to hear what the teaching occifers have to say when “lining out” their younger charges? Something along the lines of your old predecessors in relation to the Charge of the Light Cavalry. No telling what their motto might be. They might have had some pussy version of climbing the mountain to get a sprig. I have a Sargent’s lapel pin from the DPS. I’ve worn it on occasion but never had the DOT stop me when I wore it.

    • Plenty of those in Texas too. Then there was the white Charger one day with the only thing to give it away a two way radio antenna. It was DPS and doing good business. I’ve only seen the one. Sometimes you might see a silver Lincoln with a radio antenna also and be careful of them since they are higher up officers that I’ve seen stop people. The stopee I saw about to get on I-20 from the loop in Midland didn’t look very happy. He seemed to be getting one of those old ream jobs.

      • Austin PD has a couple of people with Class B licenses, and they’ll borrow a city bus and drive up & down IH-35, looking for people using their cellphone (the height lets them peer in your window). $500 a pop.

        • Hi Chip,

          This is an example of the inherently despicable nature of the “work” these creeps perform. No morally sensate person could deal with his own reflection in the mirror, having spent his “work” day riding around in a bus handing out $500 tickets to people who’d done absolutely no harm to anyone – but “might” (according to Clover logic) or because “the law is the law.”

          Feed them fish heads.

          Not cooked.

          • The annoying part is that they get a free pass on using their phone while behind the wheel. And/or using their laptop. Supposedly because they’re trained for it. I’d take a travelling salesman’s skill level over their’s. He’s got more experience doing it.

            • Hi Chip,

              It’s beyond annoying. I, too, am “trained” (GM Black Lake FBI course; Bondurant, Barber; years of track time in all kinds of different vehicles, etc. Zero at-fault accidents) but it doesn’t get me out of being ticketed for such nonsense.

              Blue Privilege Sucks

              Would make a great T-shirt!

            • The story of why I drive with a camera recording fits in there.

              I am waiting at a red signal to go straight and the left turn arrow goes green…. cars turning left in front of me…. my light goes green…. car turns left in front of me…. I proceed, cop with his sail fawn to his ear turns in front of me, I stop, avoiding hitting him and shrug. I continue after the cop has moved on…. guess who is baring down on me at twice the posted limit? His swineness. He pulls me over and proceeds to yell and scream at me about making faces at him. This guy was enraged. If he was bruce banner he would have turned into the hulk before reaching my car.

              Yelling at me about how he was in the intersection under yellow and I had to yield… blah blah. He couldn’t be because my signal was green when the driver in front of him turned. He was behind the line when the green ball came on. I get a written warning for not yielding even though I yielded because he didn’t. I soon after bought my first camera for driving use.

  13. They don’t like dealing with annual DMV renewal anymore than we mundane do, so special issue government plates are a major tell for cop cars.

  14. In the Crown Vic’s heyday even the unmarked were easy to spot from behind. That rear sway bar was about the size of Rosanne’s thigh.

    If you happen to be traveling in the People’s Republic of North Carolina the state has provided a handy way to spot the cops. They’ve changed from the silver w/black letter permanent GovCo plate which was hard to distinguish from a distance from the white w/blue letter mundane plate to a delightful orange with black letter plate. Not all cops have them, the HP still has many mundane style plates with the “SHP” prefix before the number but, it makes those white Ford Explorers much easier to spot.

    Here is what they look like…


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