Tulsa Police's 'low profile units' keep traffic flowing smoothly

Wednesday, December 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The wet roads can make for some hazardous driving. But drivers themselves make a bigger contribution, whether it's a careless lane change or full-fledged road rage.

In fact, just Wednesday, Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers say one motorist fired shots at another on the Turner Turnpike. Here in Tulsa, the police have a secret weapon to fight those traffic troubles.

It is what Tulsa Police call a "low-profile" unit. They also call it a slick-top or smooth-top. It's an appropriate name, because it's job is to help traffic move more smoothly. If an officer ever thinks that he or she has seen it all, they haven't driven a low-profile unit. Officer Brian Wattenbarger remembers the very first time he took a slick-top out for a test drive and drove up behind a woman at stoplight. “And the lady didn't want to wait for the light to turn green and decided, she just did one of these and went, right through the red light, well, she didn't realize that I was sittin' right behind her. "Y'know, those, 'I can't believe this is happening kind of violations'."

Police say drivers have gotten pretty good at spotting normal police cars and behaving appropriately, but, “Of course as soon as the police are gone, they go right back to their bad habits." But with the low-profile unit, police see the same things that all the rest of us are treated to on a daily basis, and they say it's an eye opener. "It's amazing the difference the types of traffic violations that you see in the low-profile unit compared to the high-profile unit with the light bar on it."

Of course, the minor, moving violations are also what often lead to major incidents like accidents and road rage. The slick-tops are also good at spotting those too. "The classic scenario where the cars are speeding and weaving in and out traffic, cutting people off like up on Highway 169." While nobody likes to get caught like this, police say when they survey the public about their concerns; traffic is at the top, or very close to the top, of their list.

The program has worked so well, that just recently, they added three more cars like this to Tulsa Police’s southwest division. It's hard to say "exactly" how much worse traffic is. But they say all of these cars stay "very" busy.