Preparing your squad car for a patrol shift

Submitted by:
Mark Puddy
N.I.H. Division of Police, Montana


When getting ready for your tour on patrol, get into a routine of checking your equipment. This is applicable to the equipment you carry, and your patrol unit.

When checking your patrol unit — or as Veteran Police Trainer, Dave Smith coined it, “Mobile Observational Platform” — start by turning the engine on, listen for odd knocks or sounds in the engine. That dependable work horse may have blown a piston from the previous pursuit and now is the time to find it, not later when you are fighting crime. Turn on ALL the lights, overheads, take downs, alley lights, head lights, high beams, spot lights and turn signals. Get out and make sure all are working. As you make your way around the vehicle, check the tires, clear the back seat (to ensure area is clear for the next transport), check for dents, broken lenses, etc. When finished with the exterior check of the unit, check the radio, MDC, siren, and any other gadgets that may be crammed into your work space.

Check the weapon systems assigned to the unit. Proper retrieval and storage of the long guns is critical. This check is particularly important when using pool cars. Some weapons may not be in the proper patrol ready configuration but is now in your responsibility. In 2003, C.H.P. Officer Robert Coulter was killed when placing the shotgun in his cruiser. As he positioned it in the shotgun rack, the trigger was depressed, discharging and killing him.

To preclude such a tragedy and to take control of our own physiological response to a crisis such as suddenly needing the long gun while in the patrol car, train your response while checking the equipment. Sit in the vehicle, disengage the lock, and retrieve the long gun as if you were preparing to address a threat outside your car. This is applicable to vertical and horizontal mounted weapons. Once outside the car, present the long gun as if you were presenting a use of force option. This method eliminates the barrel dialing in on your body parts, as if you were to retrieve the weapon standing outside the car and reaching in for the weapon. Inspect the magazine, ammunition, sights, trigger etc. Prepare the weapon in patrol ready configuration (empty chamber, loaded magazine, bolt closed, safety on).

As much as possible duplicate the motions you made to retrieve the weapon, but only in reverse. This also maps your mind to the motions needed in case you need to quickly secure the weapon in the rack and go to the next task.

We should all strive to not fall into any routine, however some routines are worth adopting. The key is to develop and maintain good, safe and sound habits. A routine is pointless if it is full of bad habits that set the stage for failure.

Stay safe.

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