While it seems like common sense for police officers to make securing their weapons a priority, there have been far too many incidents where a lapse in judgment or an unlucky break has resulted in firearms being stolen from their vehicles.
In July, Police Chief Steve Annibali of the Arroyo Grande Police in California, had his unmarked police cruiser parked outside of his home. According to The Tribune, a San Luis Obispo County local news outlet, sometime during the night, an unidentified criminal smashed the window of the car and stole Annibali's gun, ammunition, ID and police badge. These items were all stored under the backseat in a bag.
Several months later, in Oxford, Ohio, an unnamed officer with the local police department left his AR-15 in the back seat of his unmarked squad car overnight. He told local Fox affiliate WXIX that he had intended to move it to his trunk the following morning, but instead found his window broken and the rifle stolen.
"My car has tinted windows and was parked in my driveway," the officer said in the police report, according to WXIX. "It is unknown if the person who [took] my shotgun was familiar with me being an officer."
Keeping police gear secure
Whether they leave their patrol cars at the police station or parked in their driveway, it is essential that all departments and individuals take every step to ensure the safety of their firearms. The frequency of theft of these weapons is far too common, especially when there are simple steps that can be taken to secure them.
All police officers should have a portable safe in their patrol cars at all times. These are perfect for storing hand guns, ammunition, badges and IDs in their vehicles. It's important to select one that features a steel security cable so it can be anchored to the car.
A lockable storage box is another essential item for patrol car storage. These can be kept in the trunk or back seat of a car, and have enough space to stage larger items that officers have to keep on them at all times, such as police tactical gear.
With the proper storage techniques, weapons are kept out of sight of any passers by, lessening the chance that an officer will wake up in the morning to find their cruiser ransacked or damaged.
As a police officer, you may spend hundreds of hours each month in your patrol car. Just like your personal vehicle, it’s easy to let the mess take over, but a few of these tips will help make sure your car is kept tidy while equipment, paperwork and firearms are secured:
Lock down firearms
The importance of keeping your firearm secure cannot be overstated. Police gear needs to be both well-fortified and easily accessible in case you have to access it quickly. In order to accomplish this, consider installing a gun rack. When picking one, however, make sure you get one that is specifically designed for your firearm. For example, a patrol rifle will not fit properly into a shotgun rack, leaving you vulnerable to theft and making it more difficult to access in an emergency. There are a few different options when it comes to laying out your firearms, so choose the one you are most comfortable with. These can include mounting guns between the seats vertically or horizontally – depending on whether you have a cage or shield – or vertically near the dash.
Aside from your cab, there is plenty of police tactical gear that has to be stored in your trunk, but more on that later.
Clean out your cab
When you spend 8-plus hours each day in your car, it’s easy to make it feel a bit like home. You may leave personal effects around or some paperwork here or there. These days, keeping your cab organized is more important than ever due to all of the gadgets that modern patrol cars have – mobile digital terminals, laptops, radios, video systems or radars, just to name a few. You may find that, once you get your car organized and give everything a proper place, your daily tasks can become easier. Invest in organizers – there are some that attach to the passenger seat for easy access. They will have slots for report forms, ticket books, reference materials, blank and completed citations, and writing utensils. There are also carriers available that can hold a flashlight, extra ammunition, maps and anything else you need during your day-to-day duties.
Tackle the trunk
There are few places in a car that can collect junk as quickly as the trunk of a car can. For personal vehicles, this can just be a minor inconvenience. However, for patrol cars, a disorganized trunk can lead to lost or damaged equipment and slow response to emergencies. Depending on the make and model of your patrol car, you have a few options when organizing your trunk. The famous Ford Crown Victoria, for example, manufactured a trunk organizer to make it a bit easier for officers, but not all cars have that option. There are plenty of trunk organizers available on the market, so consider your needs while picking one. A lockable storage box or security drawer will ensure that the weapons are kept secure, and well-designed locks still allow for quick access in an emergency.
We all know that police work doesn’t stop just because the temperature has dropped, so here are a few tips to stay safe and comfortable while you’re on patrol during the winter:
Prepare your car
You never know what the weather is going to do, nor do you know what any given day may hold. Because of that, you need to make sure your vehicle is ready for whatever you throw at it. Take your tires, for example. The last thing you need is to lose traction while on patrol. Depending on what neck of the woods your division is in, you may need to carry tire chains in your car during the winter. These attach to your wheel in order to give your tires more traction. You may also consider studded tires or those specifically designed for winter driving.
Then, there’s your battery. We all know that winter is the time that your car has the most trouble starting because the cold weather keeps your engine from turning over or kills the battery. Interestingly, however, the frigid temperatures are usually not actually draining the battery itself. Instead, it’s preventing a chemical reaction from occurring that discharges the power. Because of this, swapping out the battery in your car for the spare one in your trunk isn’t going to help at all. Instead, what you have to do is keep the area from getting too cold in the first place. There are battery blankets available that will help you accomplish this.
Keep yourself warm
As a police officer, it can be tough to know how insulated you’ll have to keep yourself during the bitter winter months. If you’re outside directing traffic in 20-degree weather, you’ll definitely need to layer up. However, you don’t want to wear so much clothing that you overheat once you get back to the station or to your patrol car. Layers are going to be your best bet, as you will be able to adjust your clothing depending on what your situation requires. Consider making an investment in a good pair of thermal long underwear or socks – the higher end products are usually worth the extra cost. Be sure to always avoid cotton, especially if there is snow, slush or rain in your future. Once cotton gets wet, it stays wet. If you’ve ever had to spend the day in wet socks, you know how unpleasant it can be. Always make sure you have extra socks and other layers handy – you never know when you’ll have to don or shed layers to keep yourself comfortable.
Always remember weapons safety
Don’t let the cold weather be an excuse for not keeping your weapons secured at all times. There’s a good chance you’ll have some extra stuff to lug around in your patrol car during the day, whether it’s those snow chains or rock salt or extra blankets. This makes winter an important time to get your police gear organized. Keeping a lockable storage box in your car, for example, can not only keep everything secure, but can also help you stay organized so you can access whatever you need quickly and easily.