The Park Police acquired their first automobile in 1929. By 1932, a total of 6 cars, all Fords, had been incorporated into their vehicle fleet. True to the norm for that early era, the first cars placed into service were black in color. With the exception of a period in the l940's when they were a shade of silver-gray with a triangular emblem on the side, black was the color of choice until the mid-1960's when the light "park service green" cruisers were introduced.

In cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Park Police became the first law enforcement agency to utilize vehicles equipped with an "air cushion restraint system." The Force was provided with 25 dark green cruisers in 1973 for the purpose of this study. At the conclusion of the program, Chief Jerry Wells decided to adopt the distinctive dark green hue for all Park Police vehicles.


Another automotive innovation garnering Park Police involvement was an alternative fuel program. In 1979 and 1980, about 20 patrol cars were modified to run solely on propane. The conversion, initiated by Officer Mike Foster, was developed as a conservation and cost-saving measure. Several substations were outfitted with propane tanks and pumps to provide the converted cars with fuel. These specially equipped cruisers had a range of only about 110 miles between refueling. A second drawback was a dramatic reduction in trunk space to accommodate the supplemental fuel tank.

As the energy crisis of the l 970's became an increasingly distant memory, the propane program with its many inconveniences fell from vogue almost as quickly as it had commenced. Propane-powered cars were gradually weaned from the department's vehicle fleet contemporaneous with the adoption of a new cruiser color in the mid-1980's. The Park Police began phasing in white cruisers in 1983 as part of a National Park Service-wide transition. By the late 80's, all of the dark green cars had disappeared from primary beat coverage.

Last updated: March 21, 2015