Friday, November 12, 2004


It would probably help with recruiting

The Italian highway police have a nice new toy!
Whoosh! For Speeders, Speedier Justice, via Lamborghini


IANO ROMANO, Italy, Nov. 5 - It is not a toy, they swear, but a serious piece of police gear, no matter how many Japanese tourists stood at a highway rest stop here snapping away in awe.

"It's a responsibility to drive it," said Chief Inspector Laura Ciano of the Italian highway police.

Paolo Mazzini, a highway police commander, said: "Italian people are not always friendly toward authorities. They are curious, so they accept the ticket more readily. It's not for fun," he added.

Still, Superintendent Vincenzo Bizzarro wore a satisfied look on his face when he gave a reporter, fingers dug into fine leather seats, a small taste of what the force's new Lamborghini Gallardo patrol car can do: nearly 100 miles an hour in just a few seconds, with a row of tollbooths approaching awfully fast. (He mercifully got nowhere near its maximum speed of 190 miles an hour.) With a slim aerodynamic siren and sleek blue paint job, it looks great too: a perfectly Italian tool to foil the famously fast and anarchic Italian drivers.

Few make the case that the highway police need a Lamborghini. But in a nation crazed with car racing - where Ferrari, the legendary Italian car company, recently opened a clothing store in Rome, and where engine revving at normal stoplights can feel like the start of an urban rally - few would say they do not need one either. Certainly not the police.

"Some people from Lamborghini had spoken with the police administration about the idea," said Sergio Fontana, a Lamborghini spokesman. "They said, 'Why don't you have a Gallardo for the highway police?' And the police chiefs said, 'Why not?' It is very good for the image of the police and for the image of Lamborghini around the world."

When the police first took ownership, the Gallardo sat parked conspicuously in front of the Polizia di Stato car museum in Rome. In October, it was shipped to New York City for the Columbus Day parade, accompanied by Chief Inspector Ciano and Superintendent Bizzarro, 2 of the 10 officers specially trained to drive it.

"To drive around Manhattan in a Lamborghini is almost better than in Italy," said Ms. Ciano, who noted nonetheless that New York's potholed streets were not great for a car slung so low. "We must have had 2,000 pictures of us taken. Our colleagues in America asked if we all drove Lamborghinis."

At home, and in theory, the Gallardo is primarily a car for quick responses: the trunk in the front - the 10-cylinder, 5-liter, 500-horsepower engine is, of course, in the rear - has a plastic cooler for blood or donated organs, though it has not been used for that yet. Inside is a state-of-the-art defibrillator, which a Lamborghini press release helpfully notes also "performs electrocardiograms and automatic diagnoses of arterial pressure."

But the Gallardo has also been doing a fair share of actual highway work - a real service, the police say, in a nation with many fast cars and where the road fatality rate is higher than the European average. It has patrolled around the country, based recently near here, on the highway north from Rome to Florence. On this stretch this summer, Superintendent Bizzarro had to push the car up to about 185 miles an hour to stop a Porsche going about 155 - or almost twice the speed limit of 80.

"It was a guy who said, 'I was trying the car out,' " the superintendent said. "We said, 'We'll take your license and your car and you can try it out again later.' " Under Italian law, drivers lose their licenses if they are caught exceeding 170 kilometers an hour, or a little over 100 miles per hour. Most drivers they stop are a bit stunned, they said, and unusually passive. A taste of that was evident following the Gallardo on the highway this morning. (The police could not take reporters along for actual patrols. The car has only two seats and, on the job, is required to have two officers inside.) The Gallardo was motoring responsibly in the right-hand lane, and the usual run of speeders in the passing lane stuttered down instantly, including two puppy-size cars, a Renault and a Smart car, unsure what the larger dog on the right had in mind.

"They say, 'Well, they are taking away my license but at least it's by a Lamborghini,' " Chief Inspector Ciano said. "They compliment the car. They say how nice it is. Even when you write tickets, the say, 'What a nice car.' "

The chief inspector, a police officer for 15 years, thinks so, too. Her car at home is a Ford station wagon. "It's more fun to drive at work," she said.
I have no particular reason for blogging this - I just thought it was kind of fun. Not quite Friday Cat Blogging - or even Friday Car Blogging, since I'm not really a car-person - but a change of pace. Before my next diatribe.
It goes without saying, but be prepared, get a defibrillator enclosure external mounted wall here!
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