View Full Version : A quick query about non-SUV FBI vehicles and their flashing lights

Los Pollos Hermanos
08-04-2014, 11:20 PM
I'm back again for a spot of help - pretty please - with one of the US-based sections of my story:

Hopefully this'll be fairly short and reasonably sweet.

Three FBI agents are driving through a medium-sized town to intercept another agent whom they think has gone to apprehend a suspect (he's not supposed to be involved in the investigation as it would constitute a conflict of interests).

1). I don't want to overuse the cliché of the FBI always driving big black SUVs à la the Chevy Tahoe/Suburban. I've done some googling and the Dodge Charger is mentioned as a favoured law enforcement car. Does the FBI regularly use this car and, if so, do they drive non-black ones?!

They don't want to activate the vehicle's siren for various reasons, but need other vehicles ahead to move over so the agent driving agrees to use the emergency lights.

2). Is there any particular US law enforcement terminology/slang for putting on the lights? In the UK we might say "blues and twos" (blue lights, two-tone siren), for example.

3). Would the driver flip a switch or press a button to activate the lights? I suppose it depends on the make of car, but if the Feds do use the Dodge Charger does anyone know how to get those blue and red lights flashing? I've seen photos of undercover US police cars with internal lights across the top of the windscreen/windshield and in the grilles, so that's what I'd mention.

I found this thread elsewhere, but they sound about as confused as I am:


The location is South Lake Tahoe and it's September 2009, if that helps. It's a Tuesday and mid-afternoon, so not particularly busy on the roads.

Yeah, not particularly short. Hopefully sweet though.
Never mind, eh? ;)

Thanks in advance,


08-05-2014, 12:58 AM
I think this website might have few of the answers you're looking for.


Whelen Engineering outfits a lot of police, fire and EMS. They have pretty detailed PDFs based on each the different makes of police interceptors.

Los Pollos Hermanos
08-05-2014, 01:35 AM
Huge thanks for that website! That's the lights and their operation sorted.

I'd love some of those on my car, btw - haha!

08-05-2014, 01:49 AM
"Light em up." "Hit the lights." Similar comments.

The Charger is common, as is the Ford Crown Victoria, although they quit making the Crown Vic last year. Ford makes LE versions of several of their cars, as does Chevy.

Whelan's website should show you several switch boxes. Those are typically mounted to the bottom of the dash.

Los Pollos Hermanos
08-05-2014, 02:31 AM
Dodge Charger it is then - many thanks! It'll have to be a black one unless I learn they use other colours (e.g. if they're trying to look properly undercover, but need a bit of muscle under the bonnet/hood).

If this part of the story was set in the UK I'd have no trouble finding out the relevant info as I know a fair few "dibble" over here whose brains I regularly pick for those sections set much closer to home.



08-05-2014, 03:32 AM
Dodge Charger it is then - many thanks! It'll have to be a black one unless I learn they use other colours (e.g. if they're trying to look properly undercover, but need a bit of muscle under the bonnet/hood).

Police use a pretty wide variety of colors. A lot use white, black or a combination the two, there are exceptions though. The Atlanta Police Department uses a dark blue with red lettering.

Also, if you can find it the Top Gear USA show did one that examined three different makes of new police cars that you'd probably find useful.

Los Pollos Hermanos
08-05-2014, 03:55 AM
I'm leaning towards dark blue - it's not as FBI-ish as black, but not so bright that the car would be noticed by all and sundry.

I'll have a look on youtube for clips from the relevant Top Gear USA show tomorrow, although it's technically tomorrow here already.

When I was sat inside a police car* last summer in Texas I noticed there was a laptop between the front seats. I assume so information can be sent to and from the vehicle and the police station/control centre/wherever else?

* Entirely innocent, I hasten to add. There's a town which shares my surname. When I saw the police station I parked up and asked one of the officers if I could take a photo of the car and why I wanted to. They were obviously having a quiet morning and offered me the opportunity to have my photo taken sat behind the wheel! Best photo of the whole road trip. Well, not quite, but you get the idea!



08-05-2014, 04:05 AM
Julie James, a very popular romance writer, has an entire US Atty/FBI series and has a FBI special agent as a consultant. She asked him about their vehicles and he said the most requested vehicle was the Dodge Charger with the pursuit package.


ETA: If you aren't wanting a pursuit vehicle but an undercover vehicle, some of the agencies will use confiscated vehicles of convicted felons. My neighbor worked for our state's DEA and for awhile he drove a Hummer that had once been used by a drug dealer.

08-05-2014, 04:19 AM
Our local FBI offices have switched almost entirely to the Chargers for the field agents and pool vehicles, blue, white and black are available but primarily black. They are all unmarked, but easy to spot as Federal government vehicles. Other work can invlove almost any vehicle imaginable, especially the under cover guys, so it depends on what you're needs are. At least you'll be believable in these options.

The FBI agent I know goes "code 39" when he turns on the lights and siren, from the FBI 10 codes. 10-39 is lights and siren, 10-40 is no lights or siren. He never pulls over drivers like the local police do, so that's about his only reference to using lights, and I doubt he really tells anyone since he rides alone. :)


Los Pollos Hermanos
08-05-2014, 04:22 AM
At this rate I'm going to be awake all night digesting all these excellent links - many thanks for another one!

I've got a contact at the FBI who I've spoken to by phone (a brilliant Facebook status wind-up ensued) and emailed a couple of times, but that link has served as a really good refresher and I'll read it thoroughly when I don't have to get up in 5.5 hours. The agent who phoned me was fascinating to talk to and helped me work out how the FBI would narrow down where Mr Bad Guy is hiding out and a few other details which google couldn't answer.

My status:
Just had a phonecall from the FBI...
Responses along the lines of:
Bloody nora, what the hell have you gone and done now?
Told you you'd be on a watchlist with doing these books.
Are they going to let you back in the country next summer?

I quite fancy myself in one of those souped-up Chargers - perhaps Avis will start renting them before my next road trip??

Humungous thanks to you all,


Los Pollos Hermanos
08-05-2014, 04:31 AM
I now have a mental image of a trio of black-suited agents (with the compulsory sunglasses, of course) sat in a pink Hummer! Hey, whatever it takes to catch the bad guys...

They'll definitely be in a pursuit vehicle and it'll definitely be dark blue for a change. They ran out of the local resident agency like their backsides were on fire, piled into the car and sped off in a cloud of dust. Ideally, they need to be in two places at once, but even the Feds aren't that good and for various reasons (not the hackneyed cops and feds hate each other thing) they don't want Tahoe PD to get wind of what's going on.

More thanks coming at you,