HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It will soon be a year since Woody Anderson Ford donated a Ford Mustang to Huntsville Police for use on I-565. We wanted to know how it's been going since the car took its first trip onto the interstate.
Since then, police tell us officers have written 150 citations from the super-charged car, and handed out plenty more warnings. They say it's doing its job.
"It's a useful tool," said officer Larry Tomlin. "It doesn't look like a police car from a distance."
The Stealth Factor
That's why Tomlin says the Mustang is more stealthy. He has been with the Huntsville Police Department for nearly 20 years, and is used to being on patrol. When he was assigned and trained to work with the Mustang, some things were immediately different.
"The other cars, the Tauruses and the Explorers, they've got power but they don't have the get-up-and-go power that this car does. It's very quick to get behind a violator, let them know that you're stopping them, and it doesn't take very long at all to get them pulled over," he said.
"I guess that's the biggest change for me. People were used to seeing a patrol car and at least slowing down. But in this car, they don't think it's a police car and they just blow right by you," Tomlin explained.
WHNT News 19 witnessed the Mustang in action, easily catching up to a speeder going 95 miles an hour in a 70 mph zone. We even obtained a photo of the moment Tomlin pulled over a Corvette that he remembers hit the triple-digits in speed before he reached it.
Officer Tomlin said it's not just about catching people in the act of violating speed limits, though.
"We like to think that not only are we changing the behavior of the person we have pulled over, make them a little safer driver," said Tomlin, "but hopefully the two or three hundred cars we have pass us will see there's a car like this out here, checking for speeds and reckless driving. And hopefully it will change their behavior as well."
He said it isn't just about traffic enforcement. HPD uses the Ford Mustang to reach out to the community. They take it to schools, drive it in parades, and often strike up conversations at red lights because of interest in the car.
"It's a good public relations tool, too," said Tomlin. "A lot of people will wave, honk their horns, give you a thumbs-up at traffic lights."
He said working in the Mustang isn't just fun for speed reasons. It also gives him a deep sense of joy to meet people and connect with them.
"They love the car, they love talking about the car. And it's given me a better insight to people. They aren't all against us, or dreading the police. It's generated a lot of positive comments from people and I enjoy that."
He said many people ask how fast it can go, when they see the car.
"We don't really like to talk about that," he laughed. "But, like I said, it generates conversations everywhere you go."