Ever wondered how a car becomes a police car? Ever thought to yourself "that looks like a very expensive vehicle those officers are driving"? I thought as much.
I decided to make three flying visits to the garage at Force HQ in Devizes where our dedicated, professional and hard working fleet team ensure that our vehicles are serviced and maintained to the highest standard.
The men and women were honoured at a recent Force awards ceremony with an outstanding teamwork award. Listening to the citation, which spoke of their "no fuss, high performing service to keep vehicles on the road for our operational police officers", I decided to find out more about the important work they do.
They had just taken delivery of three white BMW X5s. Two were earmarked for the Tri Force roads policing unit; the third was to become a Tri Force Armed Response Vehicle (ARV). Tri Force refers to the partnership we have with Avon & Somerset Police and Gloucestershire Constabulary.
So, a few details about the X5.
It's a three litre diesel with seven seats. They don't come cheap, but I can assure you that, under a national agreement, Wiltshire Police and its Tri Force partners do get an extremely good deal, both on the price of the vehicle and the warranty.
The men and women were honoured at a recent Force awards ceremony with an outstanding teamwork award.
Vehicle technician Alistair Tilley told me that it would take between two and a half and three weeks to get the X5s ready to go out on patrol.
In the case of the ARV car, seats six and seven need to come out and two heavy-duty gun boxes need to go in (fortunately the car boasts sports suspension). An electrician spends two weeks fitting the sophisticated cabling for the siren, the blue lights on the roof and grille, the radio, video equipment, including four cameras, the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system front and rear and more besides.
Then the blue and yellow livery (known in the trade as "the battenbergs") and the Wiltshire Police and Tri Force badges plus police area code numbers for the roof are added.
Armed response crews can comprise two or, on some assignments, three officers. Add their combined weight to the weapons they carry and then consider the need for them to get to the scene of an incident at speed to protect public safety and I think any reasonable-minded person will agree that a BMW X5 is not an extravagance.
Having said that, I do wonder if police forces could shave some of the conversion costs.
The Tri Force partners (Wiltshire Police, Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Gloucestershire Constabulary) are setting a good example by agreeing on make and model, livery, gun boxes and so on for the ARVs.
Meanwhile, the five South West forces - Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset and Gloucestershire plus Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police - are working towards an agreed specification for a South West response vehicle: a Vauxhall Astra Tourer kitted out in the same way.
I think we should go further and seek a national approach to vehicle, livery and fittings. Let's try to reach a consensus and save public money in the process. Why not use Tri Force vehicles as the national template?