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Police cars left running

At least once a week I get the question, “Why do you leave your patrol cars running?” Then the citizen usually continues on giving examples of, “We often see patrol cars running without an officer in them at restaurants, gas stations, and many other places.” Then they make statements about wasting taxpayer dollars to keep the cars warm in the winter or cool in the summer.

I can tell you there are several reasons why we keep the patrol cars running, but the comfort or convenience of the trooper is one of the least factors.

First and foremost, there is an officer safety issue. All MSP cars have locators. Dispatch centers as well as supervisors can see where the troopers are at all times. Troopers can see the location of other troopers working as well. The locator requires power to operate.

Many dispatched calls are sent through the in-car computers. The in-car computers are very much like a personal computer at home. A trooper powers up the computer at the start of their shift, the normal power up sequence begins, then the trooper will log in to all the programs with their specific user name and passwords. Once all the programs are up and running, they are visible to dispatch and other resources. The trooper can run files and check the mapping system for pending complaints.

The in-car camera must also be powered up and a login sequence completed. We as troopers are required to have this on at all times when we are working as this system stores video and audio during trooper contacts, pursuits, and other emergency situations.

With all the computer systems and radio equipment on board the patrol car, batteries would quickly drain if the car is turned off at each stop. Each time the car is turned off, the trooper also would have to restart the computer systems all over and log in, taking close to five to 10 minutes each time. In an emergency, there is no time to do this.

The vehicle’s interior also must be kept at a reasonable temperature because of portable equipment inside. The automated defibrillators (AEDs) used to treat sudden cardiac arrest have internal batteries which will not function in extreme conditions. Troopers also carry a preliminary breath test device which is battery powered. At the end of their shift, the trooper removes the sensitive equipment from the car to a safe and stable environment inside.

Ashley Simpson is a Community Service Trooper for the MSP Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at asktroopersimpson@gmail.com or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave, Alpena, MI 49707.