Image is everything in Dubai — even when fighting crime.
Police in this desert metropolis have built up a high-horsepower arsenal of luxury sports cars and SUVs over the years to complement their fleet of green-and-white patrol cruisers.
The high-end squad cars fit into the greater gearhead ethos of Dubai, where fire-engine red Ferraris growl at stoplights and convertible Rolls Royces prowl the boulevard ringing the world’s tallest building.
Lamborghinis also glisten through the glass of a massive new showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road, the country’s longest thoroughfare that is a dozen lanes at its widest when cutting through Dubai.
But don’t expect their Lamborghini Aventador to show up if you rear-end someone.
These police cars don’t see duty at traffic accidents or engage in high-speed pursuits, said Dubai police Lt. Saif Sultan Rashed al-Shamsi, who oversees the tourist police’s patrol section.
Instead, al-Shamsi said the cars appear for special events across Dubai — or cruise areas frequented by tourists, offering visitors a glamorous image of the Dubai police.
That also is a way for the city-state’s police force to be more accessible and welcomed by the public in a country home to a huge foreign workforce, al-Shamsi said.
“One of the funny stories we have is that a lot of tourists and people here call the Dubai police … on (the emergency number) 999 to ask about these cars,” al-Shamsi said. “They want to know which location they will be in and how they can find them and take pictures with them.”
Their photogenic qualities came out in force on a recent day as officers parked several outside the Armani Hotel in the 828-meter (2,717-foot) Burj Khalifa.
The twin scissor doors of the police’s BMW i8 swung open like wings on the $140,000 car, which flies to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. The car’s license plate read 2020, a nod to Dubai hosting 2020 World Expo, a world’s fair held every five years.
Along for the ride were a two-door Bentley Continental and a Nissan GTR, its license plate the same as Dubai’s police emergency number and the plastic wrap still around its backseat.
Tim Dean, a 24-year-old tourist from St. Petersburg, Florida, used to the Ford Crown Victoria police cars on the streets of the United States, stopped to snap a quick photograph of the assembled exotic vehicles.
“You don’t see many cop cars like this,” Dean said.
That’s true, especially as the force’s vehicles also include brands like Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Ferrari.
However, one place you do see these cars is online. Videos of vehicles have millions of views and the cars themselves serve as characters in advertisements for Dubai events and in stunt clips.
In the United States, many police departments use sports cars captured in drug seizures for anti-narcotic efforts in schools. Al-Shamsi declined to discuss whether the Dubai police cars were purchases or donations.
There’s been little academic study on what effect such cars have on actual policing and Dubai’s effort may be more about projecting an image, said Dennis Kenney, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
“I know that the police in Dubai also like to tout their high-end sports cars as traffic vehicles which beyond going really fast aren’t too functional for any other aspects of policing,” Kenney said.
That could be seen on a recent morning when Cpl. Mohammed Ali piloted the force’s Brabus Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG, an SUV that retails for over $200,000. He eased it over a speed bump, slipped the transmission into neutral and tapped the accelerator, drawing a throaty roar from its V8 engine.
“It’s very strong,” the corporal said, a smile on his lips as he revved the engine again.