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 CarWhile 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 pressureAs 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 compartmentFor 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 restraintsWhile 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.
VisorsCheck 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 www.TheCopDoc.com.