Why Are MSP’s “Blue Goose” Cruisers The Only Ones Still Using These Lights?
I grew up watching TV Land and Nick At Nite, so older TV shows and movies with classic cars and cop cars are no stranger to me. One of my favorite chase scenes, ever, is from Blues Brothers. Something about watching hundreds of cop cars careening off a steep ledge just makes me giggle.
But it's very clear when you see those cars, with their huge light bars and single "bubble" lights on top, that they're old shows, from a time before sleek, LED light bars on cop cruisers... UNLESS... you're a State Trooper in Michigan.
The first time I saw a Michigan State Trooper, I thought it was a "gimmick" car. You know, those vehicles you see in parades and school events? They paint it in brighter colors, and put retro fittings on it to make it feel old-school, even though it's a new vehicle.
But then I saw another one... and then another one... and then an SUV version... all with that powder "lake" blue paint job, that single "bubble" light on top, and the "Stop" placard on the hood.
So this is how ALL of the Michigan State Trooper vehicles look... but why? Literally no other state does this. Michigan is the ONLY one in the United States that still uses a "Stop" placard and the bubble light on top of their cruisers... and there is a purpose to it, other than just looking kinda cool.
According to a write-up from the Michigan State Police in 2012, the "Bubble" or "Cherry" light isn't just tradition, it's functional.
The Origins of the "Blue Goose" Cruisers and their Light
The Michigan State Police was started in the 1920s, and got their first cruisers in 1929. At the time, the only emergency lights on a police cruiser were red spotlights mounted on the front, right fender with the word "Stop" painted on the glass. Those lights were replaced with the overhead, convex-shaped light with front and rear red bulbs.
The lights we see to this day were added to Michigan State Police Cruisers in 1956, and have stayed that way ever since.
As for the iconic powder "Lake" blue color of the cruisers, in 1954 the Michigan State Police decided to "add some life" to the black and gold cruisers they were driving, and painted them bright blue.
Thus, the "Blue Goose" was born.
Why Keep It?
While the look of the Michigan State Police is something you'll never see anywhere else in the country, the "classic" appearance isn't just for nostalgia, it has functionality.
According to the Michigan State Police...
"The single overhead light has been proven to enhance acceleration and performance. The nationally-recognized Police Vehicle Evaluation, conducted by the MSP Precision Driving Unit, has found that vehicles with a full overhead light bar accelerate slower than vehicles with a single overhead light."
Basically, the reduced surface area facing forward on the cars, reduces the drag on the vehicle, especially across the top of the cars, where the most air distribution is happening as you drive.
Now, obviously, the lights DID need an upgrade with new technology, and the mirrored, spinning bulbs inside have now been replaced with LED lights. A special light kit had to be developed for the "bubble," since no other department in the country still uses these style of lights.
What about those "Stop" placards on the hood?
As for the "Shark fin" on the hoods of the cars that say "Stop, State Police," those were originally an imitation of the original, smaller signs on the front of State Police motorcycles used for highway patrol in the 1920's and 30's.
MSP quit using bikes in 1942 during WWII, but started putting the placards on the cruisers around 1949.
Do they serve a purpose? Not really... but tradition looks pretty damn cool on the MSP.