We’ve been talking a lot about police cruisers on the blog this week, and several commenters asked why it is that police officers often leave the engine running when sitting idle in their cruisers, especially when the cost of gas is so high.
I asked Southborough Police Chief Jane Moran that question, and here’s what she had to say:
It’s common procedure for all emergency response personnel to keep their vehicles running, including the fire trucks and ambulances. It’s based on both security, public safety concerns, the type of call, the weather, and specific needs and necessities of the moment. It’s not like we’re going to the grocery store, or to work where you can lock and park your car for the day. These vehicles are often going 24-7 and for many different reasons. If not on a call, we still have to be prepared to respond in a heartbeat to the next assignment and often (especially in inclement weather) there is no time to warm up the cruiser.
The cruisers are not only the officer’s work space, it has to be ready to be shared with all kinds of folks. Prisoners, victims, citizens involved in motor vehicle accidents that are in need of transportation, or just a place to sit while waiting for the ambulance. Each and every situation is different and as a rule the officers are instructed to keep public safety in mind, always secure the vehicle when exiting, and upon return they must be able to immediately respond to the next assigned call, without delay. Dead batteries, fogged up windows and other delays are not acceptable when someone’s life may be on the line.
As a rule, if the officer knows he/she will be out of the cruiser for a while doing administrative work, like writing a report, or at the court, they know and don’t hesitate to turn off the engine and secure the vehicle. If the cruiser is left idling for an extended amount of time, without apparent good reason, they are asked to explain why and are held accountable if there is no valid reason. Quite often, when asked, the officers explain extenuating circumstances that were not obvious at first and that’s fine.
Please remember that these officers are trained professionals who have your safety and well being in mind and want to do the best job possible.
Chief Moran also said officers have to be careful about shutting off all the electronics in their cruiser – radios, cameras, and more – when they turn the engine off so as not to drain the battery. Some of the equipment takes a while to reboot when turned back on, which could delay the officer’s response to a call.
Chief Moran said she is happy to talk with residents who observe cruisers idling for no apparent reason. She asks that you send email (email@example.com) or call the station (508-485-2121) with a specific location, date, and time so she can follow up with the officer.
“We take these complaints seriously and investigate each and every one.,” she said.