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Upgrading the F-150 for Off-Road Patrol

Ford took the wraps off its 2018 F-150 Police Responder earlier this month and showed police agencies its latest tool for law enforcement work on more rugged terrain. Early feedback indicates that the truck will find a place with more rural agencies.


While this is the first large pickup designed for more dynamic driving and higher speeds from Ford, agencies have been using Ford's F-150, as well as its Super Duty trucks, in police fleets for quite some time. But this upgraded truck comes with Ford's new 10-speed automatic transmission and revamped 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine.


Jayson Bonk manages the Windermere (Fla.) Police Department's 13-vehicle fleet, which includes a 2016 F-150 powered by the 5.0-liter V-8 the agency set up for enforcement duties. The agency's officers patrol mostly dirt roads north of Orlando that can wash out during heavy rain. The truck helps Bonk reach muddy areas for search-and-rescue missions. When it's not raining, the truck makes its way over potholes and can haul large pieces of evidence.


"The truck works well, if you have large pieces of evidence that you can throw in the back, which makes it really convenient," Bonk said. "I think the truck's going to do really well. With the upgrades it has, it's going to be even better."


The F-150 Police Responder brings upgrades aplenty. The 4x4 vehicle's engine produces 375 hp and 470 lb.-ft. of torque, impressive numbers that would likely only be outdone by the F-150 Raptor, which shares this powertrain. The responder's SuperCrew body style allows agencies to carry four officers, which can reduce the number of vehicles needed during incident response.


Other upgrades include a police-calibrated braking system with upgraded calipers and pad friction material, upgraded front-stabilizer bar for improved braking and handling, and 18-inch alloy wheels with all-terrain tires. An upfit-ready interior features a column shifter with center-seat delete, heavy-duty cloth front seats with slim bolsters and anti-stab plates, vinyl rear seating, and heavy-duty vinyl flooring for easy cleanup.


Police vehicle equipment suppliers will now likely develop consoles, partitions, and other auxiliary gear for the vehicle. Bond, for example, said he had to have a half-cage custom built for his F-150. Push bumpers have been hard to find.


A few agencies, including the Border Patrol and San Diego County Sheriff, have opted for the high-performance Raptor, but the responder would likely offer a slightly more attractive price without a huge drop-off in performance. The Raptor's engine produces 450 hp.


Other agencies likely to consider and adopt the responder include the Department of Natural Resources and state fish and wildlife agencies that need to reach a variety of terrains to do game enforcement.

The County of Sonoma (Calif.), which is nestled among the rolling hills and vineyards north of San Francisco, would also likely purchase the responder. The sheriff's office has been using F-150s for search and rescue, K-9 units, and for marine operations. The sheriff patrols a coastal strip north of Point Reyes National Seashore.


"We typically have to upgrade the tires to a more aggressive tread pattern because the trucks are used in an off-road capacity a significant amount of time," said David Worthington, the county's fleet manager.

Like Bonk, Worthington has needed to modify the civilian F-150.


"Depending on the specifications and option packages, we would purchase this model truck," Worthington said. "My hope is that there will be changes made to the truck to reduce our costs in setting up these trucks for our application. As an example, a center console/front center seat delete option that would save us time in removing these components to install a law enforcement center console. Pre-wiring for emergency lighting system components would also be a time- and cost-savings option that we would appreciate."


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