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Why Does Our Deputy Park and Sit During His Shift – Why Aren’t They Out Patrolling?

I’ve heard this question a few times this past month while visiting with area city councils about their law enforcement coverage. It’s a fair question . . .

When I worked patrol I would make my rounds in whatever town I was working in, respond to calls, get information from citizens about problem neighborhoods or people, and then park and get my paperwork done. I would often park on the main street in town, very visible to anyone driving thru. For example, in Claremont I would park in front of the Fire Department. In Mantorville I would park at the bottom of the hill at our maintenance garage.

Your deputy’s squad car is his/her rolling office. In the old days we had to go into each city office to check ordinances, check messages from the city, do reports, and do research on problem areas/persons in town. Your deputy now has an online computer in the squad car that’s connected to dispatch, to the other squads working in the county, to the state, and to the internet. All the information they need is available in their squad.

What is he/she doing parked each night? We’ll here are just a few things they may be doing:

  • Updating their patrol logs. They maintain a log of all of their activities and routes throughout the night. This is turned in at the end of each shift.
  • Reviewing incidents in your town from the night before or weekend before. Usually to see if there are recurring problems to note, new problem residences, new arrests, or any other incident that may need follow up.
  • Writing a report from a previous incident in your town. These have to be completed and turned in to their supervisors for each incident.
  • Adding notes on the computer regarding a specific call they were just on – notes the next deputy will see and be aware of.
  • Checking driving status or vehicle registration for persons of interest in an investigation or complaint.
  • Watching for unfamiliar vehicles coming into town.
  • Using social media to research persons of interest in an investigation or complaint.
  • Watching for a vehicle or person expected to pass thru your town that is wanted for an incident.
  • Running stationary speed radar. (I used to do that all the time in Mantorville.)
  • When we are dealing with incidents where officer safety is a concern, we often use the computers to get information out to our deputies regarding the incident and persons in question. Your deputy may be monitoring online information about a call another deputy is on in the area or in a neighboring town – sitting there waiting to respond to help if needed.
  • Waiting for one of your local stores to close for the night. Our deputies will often park near gas stations, bars, and other businesses at closing time to make sure the employees are able to safely close up shop for the night.
  • Using their phones to follow up on cases or incidents.
  • Trying to calm down after a high stress incident or medical.
  • Meeting with another deputy to share information or talk thru an incident.
  • Taking a break and eating their lunch or dinner.

Why do we sometimes see our deputy parked behind buildings, maybe in the cemetery, or at the elevator?

This job has changed dramatically over the last 10 years – especially since the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown Jr. in August 2014. Since that incident, which spawned a number of violent protests fueled by the false narrative that Brown had his hands up saying “don’t shoot”, the number of cases where cops were targeted by protestors and criminals rose dramatically. This includes a number of incidents where cops were approached and attacked while sitting in their squad cars. The most recent incident was in August of this year when two New Jersey police officers were shot while in their squad car – 10-25 rounds shot into the vehicle. This is the kind of threat I never really thought about when I was on the road – usually the bad guys ran from us, not towards us. Today’s patrol deputies have to think about this and take steps to be safe when doing work in their squad car. Many will still park out in the open where they are visible to the public. Others may choose to park in areas where it is unlikely for someone to be able to sneak up on them. This may be behind a building or in an area where they would likely see anyone approaching – an elevator or cemetery are just two examples.

Times have changed, good and bad. We have to adapt to these changes to keep our staff safe. Don’t assume that if your local deputy is parked and sitting in his/her squad, they aren’t doing their job. That is almost always not the case.

We have some pretty amazing men and women serving our community – working day and night to help keep you, your family, and your community safe. Many of them have equally amazing families who also make great sacrifices in order to help keep our community safe.

Next time you see your local deputy, make sure to wave and/or say “Hi” and “Thank You” for their service.

Your Sheriff,

This post was originally published in November, 2018 at Sheriff Rose’s blog.

Scott Rose
Dodge County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota