This week’s fun fact: Shark fins!
Michigan State Police (reposted from 07-29-11): Why is there a “shark fin” on the hood of Michigan State Police patrol vehicles?
The Plexiglas “Stop” placards on Michigan State Police (MSP) patrol car hoods were originally an imitation of similar, smaller signs on the front fender of MSP motorcycles used for highway patrol in the 1920s-30s. Back then, the motorcycle troopers often did “side stops,” basically pulling up along a motorist to signal them to stop. The driver could look out their window and spot the “Stop” sign, even if the trooper was back a bit and hard to see.
The MSP quit using bikes in 1942 during World War II, but they started putting the larger “Stop” placards on patrol car hoods around 1949. These placards had multiple uses: for side #stops, just like in the old motorcycle days; for blockades, when troopers would block intersections with their cars to check for bank robbers (the hood signs made it unnecessary to keep red lights activated during daylight); and for nighttime response to investigations at homes. Patrol car door shields did not reflect until 1954 (that’s when MSP patrol cars changed from black to the current bright “MSP” blue with lightning bolt door shields), so by lighting up the hood “Stop-State Police” signs when they pulled into a driveway at a house, the troopers felt the residents could look out and see that it was a police car and thus feel safer.
Today, the placards are obsolete, but kept for #tradition. The MSP no longer trains troopers to do side stops in heavy traffic; we quit doing blockades around 1981; and, in today’s police tactics, cops no longer really want to illuminate their presence. The door shields now reflect, too.