Getting shot at is, unfortunately, one of the occupational hazards of being a police officer and modern law enforcement vehicles need to keep up with potential threats. In response to police feedback, Ford is now offering optional ballistic panels for its latest Police Interceptor sedan that provide protection against so-called armor-piercing rifle rounds.

If you watch enough old television cop shows from the 1970s, you've probably seen the police crouching for protection behind their car doors while in a gunfight with the baddies. Since the average production door panel provides about as much protection from a bullet as a tin baking sheet, this is known as "asking for it."

In real life, pursuit-rated police vehicles in the United States use specially designed panel inserts. These are usually Type III panels that can stop handgun rounds and ammunition up to the equivalent of 7.62 mm x 51 mm NATO M80 ball ammunition and special threat rounds identified by the Los Angeles Police Department.

The problem is, Type III ballistic plates aren't very effective against high-velocity rifle rounds (often erroneously referred to as armor-piercing bullets). Though the use of such rifles are rare by criminals, Ford says that they are becoming more common and they are a factor in dealing with terrorist incidents. To meet this threat, Ford is offering Type IV panels for the Interceptor, which can stop a .30 caliber armor piercing round with a specified mass of 10.8 g (166 gr) and traveling at 878 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2,880 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

The new Ford ballistic panel is made of a lightweight ceramic with a fabric backing. The idea is that when a high-velocity bullet hits the ceramic, the round shatters and the force is dissipated by the material. Meanwhile, the fabric catches any fragments, preventing them from entering the car cab.

Introduced in 2015, the Ford Police Interceptor is built along the lines of a 4X4 and sports advanced safety technology with a 75-mph (121 km/h) rear crash test rating, as well as strategically placed crumple zones. Under the bonnet is a 3.7-liter V6 engine generating 304 hp (227 kW) and 378 Nm (279 lb ft) of torque, or the 3.5-liter EcoBoost with an additional 61 hp (45 kW) and 96 Nm (71 lb ft) of torque.

The move by Ford makes the Police Interceptor the first pursuit-rated vehicle in the US to meet the Department of Justice's (DoJ) National Institute of Justice standard Type IV.