Ask an Official: MPD chief discusses lights and sirens in Wisconsin
This week’s featured question was submitted for an officer of the Merrill Police Department.
The question reads:
“Relatives were recently up for a visit from Mississippi and found it rather odd our police cars here in Wisconsin have red and blue lights! Their cars down there I guess have all blue lights. It got me thinking and come to think of it, on different shows on TV other areas of the country and even other countries have all blue lights. So why is it we here in WI have red and blue and other places have all blue? Is it a matter of preference? Is there a rule or law that says what color lights you have? How about different siren sounds? I noticed they are different in other places too!”
Answer as given by Merrill Police Chief Corey Bennett
“Police vehicles in WI are authorized to have red, blue, white, and amber lights. All of which are prescribed by state statute. The regulation authorizing red and blue lights is more specific stating the red lights have to be mounted on the driver’s side and the blue lights on the passenger side. Using multiple colored lights allows for more visibility (safety) as different colors of light drop off the visible spectrum at different distances. Sirens are far less specific and are commonly referred to in statute as giving audible signal. We generally have multiple siren tones for the same reason we have multiple colored lights. To increase awareness that we are on our way to an emergency.”
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