How to organize your patrol car
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by Brian Stover
Clean up the clutter in your vehicle and you just might find your job easier.
It''s your home. For eight hours a day, your patrol car is your home and office. It''s the place where you stay cool in summer and warm in winter. But is it also the local junkyard? It doesn''t need to be. Today there are a number of ways to keep your mobile office organized.
Let''s face it, space in patrol cars has become about as rare as a revolver as a duty weapon. Over the years, the cars used for patrol have become smaller, yet are required to hold more than ever before. Gone are the days of a single radio and siren control. Now we have mobile digital terminals or laptop computers, multiple radios, video systems, radar, Lojack, a shotgun, and a patrol rifle. And that''s just in the front seat. In addition, all of this must be arranged so as not to interfere with your vehicle''s air bags. It''s a wonder there is any room for you.
The trunk is even worse. Typical of some of the equipment carried today are flares, cones, blankets, first-aid kits, cameras, ballistic shields, a separate stun-bag shotgun, additional ammo, crime scene tape, and the list goes on. Throw in your personal gear bag and you need to sit on the trunk like an overstuffed suitcase just to close it.
Clear the Cab
First, let''s try to get your personal space in order. One of the best ways of organizing the myriad forms, paperwork, and other small items that accumulate in the front seat is a Posse Box. The Posse Box, available in various sizes, combines a clipboard for writing along with inner compartments for storing pens, pencils, and report forms. In the lower storage area you can use cardboard dividers to separate the material.
Posse also makes outstanding holders for citation books. They, too, are available in different sizes and styles to fit most ticket books. Another option for your citations is a leather cite book. One can neatly hold a ticket book, reference material, and completed citations. Both aluminum and leather holders can also be used as improvised defensive weapons in case of a sudden assault.
Once you have your paperwork organized, you can put your Posse box, maps, and cite book along with your flashlight, extra ammo, and a host of other equipment in a carrier conveniently attached to your passenger seat. One of the best is made by Uncle Mike''s, a name very familiar to law enforcement.
Secure Your Firepower
I firmly believe that an offensive weapon should be readily available in the front seat area. Whether a shotgun or patrol rifle, it needs to be immediately accessible. The long gun must be secure yet easily reached. Several racks are available to hold these weapons in various configurations. Make sure the one you choose, though, fits your weapon. Don''t try using a shotgun rack or lock to hold your patrol rifle. It will not fit correctly, which could affect accessibility and security.
The setup you choose for your secondary weapons will depend on a variety of factors, including the mounting of communications equipment, the position of air bags, and whether or not your vehicle has a cage or shield. Both horizontal and vertical racks are available to hold shotguns and patrol rifles. They can be mounted between the seats vertically, horizontally on or in front of the prisoner barrier, or vertically near the dash. These gun racks are available from companies such as Big Sky Racks, Santa Cruz Associates, Setina Manufacturing Co., and Tufloc.
Now that you have your personal space looking better it''s time to move to the trunk. How often have you opened the trunk to find equipment scattered everywhere? Not only does this make it difficult to find what you need, it can lead to damaged equipment and even some safety issues.
Trunk organizers are available in many different styles. Some are generic, allowing you to set up the trunk in the manner most convenient to you. Others are preset according to the manufacturer''s suggested manner.
Ford has responded to the recent concern involving the Ford Crown Victoria police vehicle by designing a vehicle-specific trunk organizer. The company believes this product will reduce the possibility of fire by preventing equipment in the trunk from puncturing the gas tank in the event of a rear-end collision. The Ford organizer also includes a Kevlar layer to help prevent punctures of the organizer.
Organizers are also available for tidying up the back ends of special duty vehicles such as SUVs. An example from Odyssey Automotive Specialty Inc. features shelves and drawers that can hold almost any type of equipment. Another supplier of trunk organizers is Truck Vault. The company sells systems designed to fit in Ford, Dodge, and Chevy police sedans and SUVs. These systems feature a combination of drawers and shelves to provide optimal storage flexibility.
When choosing any type of organizer for your patrol vehicle, consider your equipment needs and how accessible each item will need to be. Ballistic shields, weapons, and other equipment used for emergency response must be accessible at a moment''s notice, so be sure to store them accordingly. Consider storing weapons in locking drawers or cabinets with combination locks. This will allow you to secure your weapon while still allowing for quick access. Because other items such as cameras and crime scene equipment don''t require security or immediate access, they can be placed on shelves or in non-locking drawers.
Some manufacturers will custom-design and build an organizer to fit your needs. However, many standard models have excellent features and you might find they can easily accommodate your equipment needs.
Organization both up front and in the trunk can make your job easier. It can help you keep track of equipment and even prevent its loss, which will no doubt score you some brownie points with your superiors. Safety is also an issue, as you don''t want all that equipment flying around during a pursuit or traffic collision. Although it might seem like an inconvenience at first, getting your car organized will give you time to focus on your job and ensure that you have the right tools at your fingertips in an emergency. And that can make all the difference in the world.
Sgt. Brian Stover is a 32-year veteran of law enforcement and a member of the POLICE Advisory Board.
This article is reprinted with permission from Police Magazine, online at www.policemag.com/.
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