For years, police and fire departments and rescue agencies have customized the Ranger utility vehicles made by Polaris Industries with sirens, lights and other tools for patrolling parades, protests and other hard-to-reach places.

Polaris took note. Now, the company’s government and defense unit has rolled out its own lineup of Ranger vehicles modified for public-safety departments.

The new lineup features accessories such as emergency lights, sirens, public-address systems and tools for rescue and firefighting purposes.

“We’ve seen them using these,” said Jed Leonard, director of Polaris’s government and defense unit. “That led to the need for us to provide this one-stop shop. We provide all of the necessary add-ons that they need.”

The law enforcement Ranger model incorporates the same sirens, horns, PA system and emergency lighting as typical squad cars. Polaris said in a news release that these features come installed by Action Fleet, a professional emergency vehicle up-fitter.

The firefighting model provides a pump, hose, reel and the ability to spray foam and water or connect to a water source.

Polaris said the system was developed with input from RKO Enterprises, which specializes in firefighting gear. The rescue Ranger offers a rear attendant seat and a rescue basket, according to Polaris.

Departments also have the option to purchase a fire and rescue combination Ranger, and custom graphics can be added to all models to match the rest of a fleet.

“It really extends to both the urban environment and the off-road environment,” Leonard said. “You can get on the sidewalks, you can get up and down easily, you can maneuver through traffic.”

Mark Klukow, special events sergeant for the Minneapolis Police Department, said MPD has 10 older models of Polaris Rangers that were modified and customized by the department after they were purchased a few years ago.

The vehicles, which can mount curbs and fit in bike lanes, are often used at large parades, festivals and protests.

The department also borrowed 10 additional new Ranger models during Super Bowl activities to manage crowds and access streets closed off to vehicles.

“We can move our personnel and equipment around special events,” Klukow said. “They’re particularly useful. The width of them are less than a police car.”

Klukow added that Minneapolis’ downtown precinct often uses the Rangers to navigate crowded or traffic-locked streets. Klukow also pointed out how the option to remove the doors and roof from the vehicle makes police officers more friendly and approachable, especially while policing community events.

“They become a really great opportunity to engage with the public,” he said. “People just aren’t apprehensive at all.”

Though the company partners with military and government defense agencies to provide modified vehicles, Polaris had not previously launched a side-by-side lineup for law enforcement, fire and rescue agencies.

The Ranger line is part of the off-road vehicle and snowmobile business that generated two-thirds of Polaris’s $5.43 billion in sales last year and nearly 30 percent of $1.32 billion gross profit.

Recalls have been an issue for the company, and in early April it was announced that Polaris would pay a record $27.25 million civil penalty for failure to report defective RZR and Ranger recreational off-road vehicles over several years.

Jess Rogers, a Polaris spokeswoman, said the company has enhanced its product design processes and employs a surveillance team to scan for issues in products.

“We are continuing to build on the processes that we have in place,” said Rogers. “We are vigilant and remain focused.”

The new line of vehicles aimed at public safety agencies have suggested retail prices ranging from $13,000 for a lower-end Ranger with sirens to $37,000 for the six-seat, fully enclosed, heated and air-conditioned models. Public-safety departments often receive discounts.

The customer can customize the vehicle to add whichever accessories are most beneficial, Leonard said.

Klukow said that MPD’s Rangers are still functional and useful, but noticed the convenient upgrades of Polaris’ new line.

“They have a hookup for a good police radio and a computer if we want to put those in ... those are big upgrades in this new line,” Klukow said. “It’s a big change that I imagine other departments will be moving toward.”

 

Olivia Johnson is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.