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Why Do You Leave Your Squad Car Running?

One of our Commissioners asked me this week why our deputies often leave our squad cars running. He explained he’s been asked this question by voters in his district. It’s a great question. Here are the reasons:

Squad cars today are way different than they were back in the day. When my Dad (Bob Rose) worked for the Kasson Police Department and later with the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, things were a lot simpler in squad cars — a radio and radar . . . that was it.

Today, our squad cars are a state-of-the-art rolling office. We have a mobile computer system with printer, a squad car camera system, wireless equipment, rechargeable electronic equipment (cameras, flashlights, microphones, etc.) and chargers, light equipment, and our emergency medical equipment.

There are many reasons why we need to keep our squad cars running, especially in extreme conditions — both cold and hot. Keeping squad cars climate controlled is important, not for officer comfort, but to keep our staff safe and protect climate-sensitive equipment and emergency medical supplies.

OFFICER SAFETY – The in-car camera system in our squad cars records all audio and video of everything going on inside the squad car and outside. These camera systems record all interaction with the public, both on patrol and in the back seat of the squad car. They protect both the public and our staff from false claims and liability. When our vehicles are shut down for more than 10 minutes, the camera system shuts down to conserve battery power. When the squad car is started back up, it takes a couple of minutes to boot up the camera system and log the system back on. When our deputies get called to emergencies (domestics, driving complaints, medicals, etc.), every minute counts when it comes to the public’s safety. We can’t delay our response to make sure all of our squad car equipment is back on and logged into. In the litigious environment we live in today, having these cameras running at all times is extremely important.

MEDICAL EQUIPMENT – Here in Dodge County our deputies and officers are the first responders for medicals. We carry Oxygen and Defibrillators for medicals. Cold O2 should not be distributed because it’s not good for fragile tissues in bronchial and lungs. O2 should also never be stored in hot vehicles as they can become unstable and explosive.

Defibrillators must be stored in temperatures from 32 degrees to 122 degrees. Any more and they won’t perform properly and may cause battery problems. Temperature extremes can also cause issues with the pads.

NARCAN – The medicine we use with opioid overdose victims is called Narcan. It is very susceptible to temperature issues and needs to be stored in a temperature range from 59-77 degrees. Every squad car carries this medicine and has the potential of saving lives with its deployment.

MOBILE COMPUTER SYSTEM – Laptops are running constantly in our squad cars. While the cold temperature itself isn’t as much of an issue anymore with the new laptops, condensation can become an issue with a vehicle interior that is cycling warm and cold. The heat is much more problematic with today’s laptops, especially since they sit near the windshield exposed to sunlight.

In the same way chocolate bars melt, leather seats become scalding and smart phones overheat when locked inside a car in the sun for too long, the computers and other electronic equipment our squad cars are outfitted with these days can be negatively impacted by extreme temperatures.

In addition, especially this time of year, it’s vitally important that windshields are kept clear when our deputies and officers are dispatched to an emergency call. The only sure way to make sure the windows are clear, is to keep the temperature controlled in the squad car by leaving it running.

The cost of leaving these squad cars running is a small price to pay when you look at the overall picture. Our primary focus is to make sure our staff has the ability to respond quickly and safely with the necessary equipment to handle any potential emergency to the best of our ability. There are too many variables for us to not keep the temperature constant in our squad cars.

Hopefully this better explains why we often leave our squad cars running. Please feel free to contact me any time if you have any questions about our Office, our policies, or our procedures. We take our responsibility of operating within the budget set by the commissioners, and our responsibility of maintaining the safety of our staff and public very seriously.

Your Sheriff,

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

Scott Rose
Dodge County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota