With Everyday Carry, Consider the Patrol Car

Oct. 16, 2019
Keeping patrol cars and equipment protected at all times, especially off duty, can be a challenge. With these suggestions and devices, every officer can be sure their take-home vehicle is safe and secure.

Since patrol cars are considered to be mobile offices for law enforcement personnel, each unit is equipped with specialized gear such as firearms, tactical vests, and rugged computers to name a few. These items are often costly and not easy to come by. Ensuring that take home units are safe and secure can be made easy with a few tips and tools that maximize security for items stored within the unit as well as for the vehicle itself. 

Captain Jack Chauvin of the Orleans Levee District Police Department, says their units are take home and are equipped with a few, extra accessories. “Mounted laptops are secured via mount and cable lock and stay within the unit,” says Chauvin. “Weapons are locked in deploy racks while on duty and off duty, at minimum, all equipment must be secured in rear cargo lock box or secured in officer’s residence.” In addition, each unit has an alarm for added security.

For More Information on Securing Your Firearm
Check out the Officer Media Group 2019 Vehicles & Fleet Supplement. Lt. Frank Borelli takes a look at the variety of options for firearms in patrol vehicles and what considerations impact the choices in "What Officers Need to Know About Mounting & Storing Firearms in the Patrol Vehicle".
Download the supplement at Officer.com/21096514.

Another way officers can ensure their units and equipment are safe is through at home video surveillance systems. The Ring doorbell has the ability to capture video footage from your doorstep, an added advantage to home security and surveillance. For law enforcement professionals, particularly those who take their police cars home with them, this type of security system allows for an even more secure way to monitor the vehicle while at home.

Ring also has other devices such as security cameras and alarms, all with real time footage as well as motion detection capabilities to keep homes under the most accurate surveillance possible. The Ring doorbell camera is able to record when someone rings the doorbell and is also activated by motion. This has aided police departments in numerous ways including leads to follow in investigations as well as personal home security.

“Ring’s mission is to reduce crime in neighborhoods by creating a Ring of Security around homes and communities with its suite of affordable, DIY home security solutions,” says a Ring spokesperson. Each device by the company is able to work together and all connect to the Ring app. Users can customize their security through options such as video doorbells, lighting, alarms, or security cameras.

“Alerts are sent directly to your phone via the Ring app, and videos can be uploaded to the Neighbors app.” This allows footage to be shared within a neighborhood as well as with local police. Since Ring has numerous options for keeping properties secure, as well as HD video, two-way audio, and alerts directly to your phone, officers that have these systems at their home can be sure that their patrol car and equipment is monitored at all times. “Many of our cameras can be installed in or above garages, looking over your driveway and alerting you of any activity in real-time,” says a Ring spokesperson.

When it comes to equipment such as agency property, most departments have specific policies or protocols in place for personnel to follow. Major and Deputy Chief David Richardson of the Nitro (West Virginia) Police Department says he keeps his unit in a garage where all items are safely housed. “As for the department personnel that do not keep cruisers in home garages: according to policy no firearm or body armor is to be left in the vehicles while off duty,” says Richardson. In addition, MDTs are all kept inside of the cruiser in lockable mounts. “All mounts are required to be locked at all times.” The reasoning for this is not only to prevent theft but for the officer’s safety while the vehicle is moving. Having these items secured keeps them from moving around in the event of a vehicle crash. Richardson also says when officers are on duty their body armor must be worn. Any extra body armor items such as external carriers, carriers with rifle plates and other similar items are stored in the police vehicles for rapid deployment. While on duty all mounted weapons are locked inside the vehicle’s interior. “These mounts are locked at all times unless activated for weapons deployment,” says Richardson. Some officers at Nitro PD are assigned additional special weapons which are secured in the trunk or interior of the unit depending on whether it is a sedan or an SUV. While off duty no firearms are to be stored in fleet vehicles.

Since all equipment issued by departments are considered of value, most items are secured following the same policies as other items whether it is an item such as a personal firearm or one that is department issued. “We rely heavily on common sense and ask officers to keep valuables out of view if they are kept in vehicles,” says Richardson. Keeping items out of view decreases the likelihood of having them stolen. Additionally, many officers have home security systems with both audio and video surveillance systems that allow officer’s to monitor their vehicles while at home.

Lieutenant Warren Wilson of the Enid (OK) Police Department says equipment such as laptops, ticket writers, cameras and AEDs are only left inside of patrol cars while the officer is on shift. The equipment is checked in and out before and after shifts. “We supply locks for long guns in the vehicle, but encourage officers not to leave them in their cars while at home,” says Wilson.

Keeping items from view

Added security precautions may include vault boxes that allow officers to keep equipment out of view while lessening the likelihood of theft. TruckVault, Inc. has developed numerous products that allow for preventative measures when officers are away from their vehicles. “We utilize the available storage space in the vehicle to accomplish this,” says Don Fenton, Media Director of TruckVault, Inc, ShotLock, LLC. By implementing industry leading locks as well as strike guard technology TruckVault takes security one step further. “If someone were to gain access to this area of the vehicle they would have an extremely tough time gaining access to the inside of our product.” Also, helpful features include options for custom building. Fenton says in addition to hundreds of stock builds available the company has thousands of custom or one-off designs. “We continue to build on that number daily as departments come to us with special requests.” Among a few unique requests have been items built to secure drones, gooseneck trailer builds and an all-weather design for pickups that are uncovered. This product has a top load capacity of 2,000 pounds. Fenton says this product is compression locked, includes bulb sealed drawers and rhino lined units that are impervious to weather elements such as dust and grit.

Fenton says the company also designed a lift system that provides in-vehicle security storage for Ford Interceptor units. “We also have led the industry in many of the applications,” says Fenton. This includes push button key overriding locks, compression locks and bulb seals to name a few.

Police Departments have a variety of choices from TruckVault to suit their department’s needs.

“We build for every make and model of vehicle on the road,” says Fenton. “If we do not have the design for a particular vehicle we find it and design it.” The vehicle profiles the company’s engineers have focused on have been popular unit models such as the Ford interceptor, Tahoe, and Durango. Others include a variety of pickups, vans, and pursuit sedans. Fenton says if a Patrol Officer, Canine Handler, Investigator, Chief or SWAT member needs it they will build it.

Darren Hooker, Chief of the Ruidoso (NM) Police Department says a take home vehicle is a benefit for officers. “There is nothing like having a marked police unit in your driveway and being able to get in it straight from the house and go 10-8.” Hooker says the security of units is paramount especially these days. “Most officers will park it in the garage if they have the ability to,” says Hooker. “I have that ability and that is where mine resides.” If an officer does not have a garage at their home, Hooker suggests officers ensure patrol cars are kept in a well-lit area of their property. Additionally, there should always be weapons locks in place which may be easily activated with a button either on the siren box or in a hidden area of the vehicle. “For any loose equipment, police units are often coming equipped already with a lock box mounted in the rear of the vehicle. That is where officers will put their valuables as well as any additional, specialized equipment,” says Hooker. Additionally at scenes both Lieutenant Wilson and Chief Hooker say protocol for their departments require each patrol car on site to remain locked and long guns are secured in locking mounts when the vehicle is empty of police presence.

By taking a few, simple precautions such as home security and specialized lock boxes, officers can remain vigilant off duty, keeping their take home vehicles and equipment safe.  

About the Author

Hilary Rodela

Hilary Rodela is currently a Surveillance Officer, a former Private Investigator, a former Crime Scene Investigator, and Evidence Technician. She worked for the Ruidoso (NM) Police Department as well as the Lubbock (TX) Police Department. She has written for several public safety publications and has extensive law enforcement and forensic training and is pursuing forensic expertise in various disciplines. Hilary is a freelance public safety writer and curriculum developer for the National Investigative Training Academy.

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