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10 Must Do Actions Before Your Patrol Shift

10 Must Do Actions Before Your Patrol Shift

Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.)


Detectives are a wealth of good information. But, you have to start slow and work up to a reputation where your detectives give you good information for your shift. Depending on your shift, you may have to go in before or after. Find the officer-in-charge. Offer to do any simple follow-ups for them. Do they have a bad phone number for a witness or victim and need someone to get a correct one? It won’t be long before you have done enough simple favors to get paid back with a juicy piece of crime intel and make a great arrest.

The Police Car

Most of us walk around the car and look for new damage. Who wants to get blamed for something they didn’t do? Make a good inspection of the car a part of your pre-shift ritual. Does everything work? Search it thoroughly. At least once in your career you will find a gun, knife or dope that someone missed. Think of this as a positive intervention. If you find the something before the last person who used it has gone home, they are in a much better position to make it right. Plus, someone you searched and put in the backseat won’t find that weapon to use against you.

Talk to your Partner

Even if you have a regular partner, talk to them about the basics. Work out the essentials for the shift. As an example, contact and cover responsibilities. Talk about the information you have gathered from records and detectives. Also, if you work alone, talk to the nearby beats. Share the same information concerning tactics and individual choice you would with a regular partner.

Have a Plan

Although you are going to handle radio calls, you should formulate a plan for your shift. With the information you have gathered from records, detectives and your regular briefing, decide to do a half dozen things that shift. They might be simple like following up on a lead for the detectives or looking for a particular stolen car. The point is that having a plan and working that plan makes you much more effective as a police officer.

Long Hours and Physical Activity

You are going to be in the car for an 8, 10 or 12 hour shift. A few simple stretches each time you leave the station will go a long way toward preventing injury for cops. Before you roll out on to the street, take a few deep breathes, and stretch your major muscle groups. Use upper body isometric tension, bend at the waist, push against the car and stretch out slowly and deliberately. You will be more alert and much less likely to injure yourself.

What’s New

Policy, procedure, rules, regulations and the law change, constantly. Case Law, in particular, is very fluid; however, by the time it gets to the street cop, information from your department channels is often 30 days stale or more. There are any number of online sources for updated and correct information on changes in Case Law. Subscribe and check them daily.

Be safe and good hunting! Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.) retired from the Los Angeles Police Department. He is the author or co-author of six books including Police Technology and Leadership: Texas Hold ‘em Style. He can be contacted through his website at

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