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5 Must-Do Patrol Car Checks

5 Must-Do Patrol Car Checks

Dr. Richard Weinblatt

Whether you have a shared patrol car or a take-home unit, almost every officer, deputy sheriff, and trooper I know checks over their car and its equipment before the shift. After all, this is your mobile office. You need it to do your job and its smooth operation may even save your life one day. Some agencies mandate the inspection in policy, while others leave it up to the crime fighter. While most officers do fine checking things such as the cruiser’s mileage and the emergency lights, here are five things that aren’t checked by all officers prior to the shift. If you are checking these things, kudos to you, but if you aren’t, you do soAn.

Under the Car

While we don’t want to be paranoid, the hidden area underneath your patrol car should be checked. The paranoia is justified to some degree given the recent events in rural Riverside County, California where members of the Hemet city police department were targeted with a number of harmful actions including an incendiary device that was attached to an unmarked unit.

Check under your car for explosive devices, as well as debris, is mentioned in the Florida Basic Recruit Academy’s vehicle operations portion. You can use a mirror at the end of a pole or you can kneel and look under the car directly. Either way, it’s a few moments well spent. Ask them in Hemet. I bet they’ll agree with number one on the list.

Tire pressure

As a vehicle operations instructor, I have long been aware that folks routinely bypass checking the tire pressure. This can be deadly especially for officers that are traveling at high speeds on highways.

Prisoner compartment

For some cars still outfitted with removable seats, law enforcers should lift and observe if any weapons or contraband has been placed there by detained suspects or transported prisoners. While some agencies have outfitted their squads with piece molded seats, all should be checked. In addition to officer safety issues, the practice of checking before and after every shift and every person being placed in the rear of the patrol car is a powerful statement that can be made on the witness stand and cements the chain of evidence issue

Ankle restraints

While many agencies have transitioned to hobble restraints, quite a few still have metal ankle cuffs in their patrol cars’ inventory. Much like I had mentioned in a previous article on handcuffs, ankle cuffs are not checked with the frequency and regularity of a firearm. I have seen cuffs that have cobwebs and dust caking them. When an officer needs this piece of equipment, finding them in disrepair will not make this tough job any easier.


Check your visors for items that have ended up there over time that probably shouldn’t be. This particularly rings true for officers who have the benefit of having a take home unit.

For example, many officers shove paperwork above the passenger side visor and then forget about it. That could be a problem if that paperwork is a subpoena or an important piece of case documentation. I have also observed officers sliding pictures of their family up there. Well, remember the often angry passenger locked in your backseat who has nothing but time to study the faces of your family in the hopes of running into them at a store later.

Even if you are the diligent officer that checks his or her patrol car regularly, be sure that you go above and beyond and inspect beyond the usual places. That attention to detail may make the difference in your cases or your officer safety.

Dr. Richard Weinblatt, “The Cop Doc,” is a former police chief, ex busy jurisdiction patrol deputy sheriff, and criminal justice educator who has written articles and provided media commentary since 1989. He can be reached via

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 2 years ago


    If you're assignment consists of patrolling public property adjacent to your area of assignment (such as car donation shops) do so with caution. Remember, as a security officer (private citizen)you can't enforce on public property. If you observe something suspicious communicate this with your dispatch or contact local law enforcement.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    I will send the link to this article here to one of my friends from Fox Car Rental. He is always worried about clients that have bad intentions. Maybe this checkup tutorial will make him feel better.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    I never thought about that before and you're right, police cars should be checked for any foreign objects, people's lives are at stake. I am glad it's not the case with the Salt Lake City used cars, I am about to close a deal but before that I need to so some technical checking, I am not concerned about foreign hazardous objects. I was actually hoping to get some technical tips here, that's why I stopped by.

  • Police_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    I was wondering if patrol police cars which are assigned to deal with traffic problems have jeep lift kits in their tools section. They should have, right?

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago

    This was excellent, thank you

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    I'd add a couple things, particularly for wildland LE vehicles:
    * While checking underneath the ride, look for oil or fluid leaks, particularly near exposed fittings like drain plugs and brake lines. Check any skid plates and make sure that they are still attached and not bent to where they may damage the components they are supposed to protect. Also make sure that they haven't collected debris, particularly around the catalytic converter - having dried sage or creosote branches stuffed in the cat heat shield guarantees a fire. An aromatic fire, but a fire none the less. Look for leaks around struts or shocks, and tears in boots. The "inside" sidewalls of tires don't get enough attention, take a look at them for impaled cholla spines, coils of barbed wire wrapped up when driving through an open field, or a really tenacious wolverine.

    * Going into winter, have your comm tech, or some one who has a working knowledge of how your radios, data systems and emergency equipment is powered and programmed check your battery and terminals and make sure that they are clean and protected by boots or appropriate terminal protectants. Doing it yourself ensures that you radios will go dead and you light bar will be stuck blinking "SOS." Consider adding a NOAA weather radio to your kit. Your dispatcher is no doubt tied into weather alerts, but consider it like a back-up, particularly if your jurisdiction falls into more than one NWS office district.

    * Consider that compact shovel. tow strap and avalanche kit. Pilots routinely carry a "RON" kit for when they are forced to "Remain Over Night," we may want the same

  • Badge_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Good tips. If everything works like it should, things go smoothly. It sucks to find that the guy who had the car on the prior shift had a headlight out and a nail in the tire and didnt mention that to you in the pass on.

  • Ship_patch_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great tips !!

  • Dsc02269_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Great I like this very much. Lets always check tail lights, head lights, turn signals, shotgun. radio, and the list goes on. It is very important for us to put our safety first. Then we can do a better job at keeping others safe.

  • Marvin_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    i always clean my windows, was taught that as a rookie by a senior officer and i do it.

  • 20141003_065807-1_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Im a car buff so this is music to my ears. Thank You...

  • 120404-131505_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Dually Noted

  • Jack-sparrow-pirates-of-the-caribbean_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Very good info. I will definitely keep this in mind in the future.

  • Jpd_new_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Don't forget to check under the driver and front passenger's seats. Even if you have a cage or partition separating you from the back seat, things can be shoved under there. We had an Officer find a loaded handgun shoved under the front seat.

  • Parkside_crest_new_12-15-08_copy_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Good stuff! Thanks for posting.

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