It’s been said that a police car is a cop’s office on wheels. Well, that’s certainly true, but those rolling branches of the police department also serve quite well as storage facilities for spare paperwork, extra ammunition, defibrillators, shotguns and rifles, computers, radio repeaters, shovels, rain gear, boots, extra clothing, evidence collecting kits, fingerprinting kits, hand cleaner, paper towels, extra handcuffs and other restraints, and sometimes a few teddy bears to help ease the pain of traumatized kids. The contents of each car depends upon the role and personal preferences of each officer.
The interior of a police vehicle, especially a patrol car, is jam-packed with tools of the trade that need to be within easy reach of the officer—shotgun, flashlight, paperwork, traffic summons book, etc. There’s also an array of winking and blinking lights, buttons to twist, turn, push, pull, or flip in one direction or another. There are microphones and speakers. Radios for calling out and others for listening.
A radar unit and antenna are usually mounted somewhere within the interior compartment. And, of course, there’s a heavy screen to separate the good guys from the bad. Good in front, bad in the back. If that order is ever reversed, then you’re probably in deep trouble and this very well may be the perfect time to re-think your career choice.
The controls for lights, sirens, radar, and radios (both portable and stationary) are normally mounted in a control console that’s within easy reach of the driver. The picture below is of a center console in an average patrol car. See how many of the items you can correctly identify before moving on to the next picture.
Next is the same image with each item identified.
Radar antennas are normally mounted either hanging from the top of the rear side window (outside), on the front dashboard, or in the rear window area (pictured below), or both—one on the dash and one in the rear window. Some units are capable of tracking vehicles both coming and going.
And, some are able to record target vehicle speeds while the police car is moving.
The next image is of a dash-mounted radar unit and antenna (antenna is to the left of the unit).
Shotguns and their locking dock stations are often mounted between the backs of the front seats, near the dashboard in an upright position, or, as pictured below, in an overhead, behind-the-seat locking station. Shotguns should always remain locked in place until the officer needs it. There’s normally a “hidden” button that’s depressed to release the weapon from its locking mount.
Most present day patrol cars feature a Mobile Data Terminal (MDT), better known as a laptop.
Screens are normally made of a combination of Plexiglass and aluminum. Notice the side panels of Plexiglass in the photo below. This is to prevent the suspect from reaching around to grab the driver. It also serves as a “spit guard.” There’s nothing worse than driving along toward the jail and suddenly find the side of your head and face as the recipient of something very wet and very slimy.
Some officers (me included) prefer to hang an extra set of handcuffs from the side spotlight control handle (below). You never know when you’ll need them, and if you do they’re with easy reach.
By the way, the spotlight is controlled by the handle you see below. To stand the light in an upright position, you simply pull down on the rounded handle that’s just to the right of the black leather strap attached to the handcuffs. Then, by rotating the handle (twisting to the right or left) the light moves as indicated.
Light bars mounted to the top of marked patrol cars serve more than one purpose. The main function, of course, is to alert people that the car is in emergency mode. The officer inside activates the rotating lights (or strobes) by flipping a rocker switch (up for on and down for off, just like a light switch in your home). The lights inside the bar are not colored lights. Instead, they are merely very bright spot or flood lights. It’s the colored lenses that produce the red, blue, and amber light.
The white or clear lenses you see are actually used as spot lights. The four white lights on the front of the bar below are called takedown lights, and are used to illuminate the area in front of the patrol vehicle, such as during a nighttime traffic stop. The side lights are alley lights, and, of course, are used to light up alleys as the officer passes by. However, they can be used to illuminate the areas on either side of the car for any purpose needed, even to see better in a wooded area, field, or ditch.
Finally, the trunk of a patrol car is used to store items the officer may need for special occasions, such as a fingerprint kit or evidence bags. The trunk is also where dashcam recording units are mounted, as are lock-boxes for weapons.
I know one sheriff who keeps a complete set of golf clubs and a pair of golf shoes in the trunk of his police car. After all, you never know when an emergency golf game may pop up.
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Okay, Writers’ Police Academy recruits, you’d better take a good look at this blog post, because you’re going to need to know what’s what and where it’s located when you stop the bad guys…at night. Yep, we’ve got big plans for you this year!
By the way, we are taking names for a waiting list, and we’ve already filled three spots that suddenly became available. Please contact us right away if you’d like to add your name to the list. This year is totally over the top. We’ve gone all out this time!