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How to buy a vehicle storage system

When choosing any type of organizer for your patrol vehicle, consider your equipment needs and how accessible each item needs to be


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This started out as a trunk storage article, but many agencies are moving to vehicles that don’t have trunks. Think SUVs for the brass, Jeeps for rural agencies and green vehicles such as Prius and other hybrids. And a simple gun vault just isn't enough any longer. With all of the equipment and technology that the modern cop needs to carry for the missions they support, cops need a storage vault system that not only can protect what is inside, but may have dividers, multiple drawers, lighting and power.

Officers and command staff may carry different supplies in their vehicles, which means you need to consider what equipment will be stored and how accessible each item needs to be. Do you encourage agency staff to carry supplies in their personal vehicles? You might want to think about installing a storage vault system there too.

Which equipment is most important for your officers to get to? How often do they deploy their Level III vest and helmet versus grabbing a handful of flares at an accident scene? Does each officer or command staff instinctively know how to get at critical gear stored in their vehicle?

Officers and command staff may carry different supplies in their vehicles, which means you need to consider what equipment will be stored and how accessible each item needs to be. (Photo/PoliceOne)
Officers and command staff may carry different supplies in their vehicles, which means you need to consider what equipment will be stored and how accessible each item needs to be. (Photo/PoliceOne)

I really need a desk in my SUV

During the YouTube shooting in April 2018, the San Bruno Police Department quickly realized that command staff didn’t have enough flat surfaces to put things on while planning their response. In addition to a secure weapons vault, they realized that command staff also needed smaller drawers for pens and pencils, markers, crime scene and masking tape, ICS vests and forms, a flip-up dry-erase board and heavy-duty writing surfaces which can slide out past the end of the vehicle.

You could cobble something together by going to an office supply store and buying a bunch of plastic drawers to put on top of your weapons vault, but there are drawbacks to this approach:

  • You need to figure out a way to attach them so that they don’t slide around.
  • You need to protect and prevent theft of sensitive or valuable equipment such as ballistic gear, a Raman spectrometer, magazines and ammunition.

Rather than risking your home-grown storage system failing when you most need it, you should consider the purchase of a stock or customized system from a vendor that specializes in secure law enforcement storage. No matter how many drawers or other accessories they have, these systems are contained within a thick, high-strength steel vault that bolts to the frame of the vehicle in which they are mounted. And there are many mission-specific options available.

If you need to read maps for search planning, look for a system that has a lighted map table with a glass or plastic cover so that you can make notes with a marker without writing on the map itself. If your agency uses laptops and cellphones (and which agency doesn’t?) there are systems available with 12-volt outlets so that you can keep your gear charged during extended deployment. Some offer lighted drawers so that you aren't fumbling around in the dark when seconds count.

Guns, gear and ammo

A gun is useless unless it is fed properly. That means you need additional magazines and ammo in the vehicle for each firearm, whether handgun, patrol rifle or shotgun.

If the magazines or ammo are not properly labelled and securely stored, precious seconds could be wasted trying to find it. One way to organize ammo and magazines is to store them in drawers that have been customized with die cut foam so that everything fits into a specific cutout and cannot move around. And don’t forget to label the outside of every drawer in huge, easy-to-read letters.

Patrol officers are much more likely to respond to an accident than they are to an active shooter call. That means road flares and traffic vests need to be easy to grab without looking under the seats or in the corners of the trunk or the back of an SUV. Personal protective equipment, bleed kits, AEDs and ballistic gear also need to be stored in a way that makes them easy to get to without pawing through a bunch of other stuff piled on top. Again, a secure multi-drawer storage system designed specifically for law enforcement can help achieve mission success.

To sum up

No matter what features you need, whether for officers or command, the most important attributes of any law enforcement vehicle storage system are to protect and organize the firearms, ammunition and other equipment inside and to prevent them from being stolen. Law enforcement agencies should consider a stock or customized storage system that is completely contained within a heavy-duty vault, which offers protection through thick steel, high-grade locks and that mount to the vehicle frame.

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