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Police officers’ response to locked cars

It was brought to my attention numerous times throughout the holiday weekend that, on the Fourth of July, a resident made a post on Facebook about how police officers at the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post do not have the proper equipment to assist residents who have locked themselves out of their vehicle.

In the post, the resident states that, after attending the parade on Independence Day, she had locked herself out of her car while her children were still inside. Her husband called 911 and was told that, because they were outside the city limits, the Alpena city police were unable to assist and the MSP were unable to assist because they do not have the equipment to open the window without breaking the window, so the dispatcher could not send someone else.

The dispatcher then advised the caller they could call a tow company for assistance. The male caller then told the dispatcher to forget it, because, by the time it would take a tow truck to get there, the car would be too hot for the children, so they would handle it themselves.

The post goes on to read that the husband then chose to kick out the window to gain access to the children.

The person who made the post ends it with comments like, “you’d think MSP would carry the proper equipment at all times to get car windows open in case of such emergency … Who turns away parents seeking help to get their two young kids out of a hot car …”

It continues with, “The only thing that has us angry is the fact that none of the police carry the kits to open a locked car in their vehicles! With all the reports on children and pet deaths in hot cars, you would think they would this time of year!”

In response to this, there are a couple reasons why MSP specifically does not have the equipment to open locked car doors.

First off, liability.

Lockout kits can cause damage to the vehicle. Newer vehicles have so many electronics and new technology, making it difficult to unlock a vehicle without causing damage. Lockout kits can also cause physical damage that law enforcement does not want to be responsible for.

Secondly, law enforcement officers do not have any training with lockout kits, which could result in the officer causing unintentional damage.

My understanding is that MSP-Alpena was not aware of the situation described in the Facebook post, as the caller told dispatch to “forget it.”

MSP would have gladly gone to the scene to assist the caller.

However, the help the caller would have received from MSP would have likely resulted in the window being broken, anyway.

Many members of the MSP carry small window punches to assist with breaking a window just as the driver did. MSP will only break a window upon the driver’s request or in an emergency. We would have also offered to call a tow truck for them, as, sometimes, response time can be as little as five minutes.

I understand that, as a parent, you are concerned for your children who are locked in a car on a hot summer day, but there are always two sides to everything.

The dispatcher followed their protocol for this situation to a tee. The caller, however, did not like the response and took matters into his own hands.

In light of the situation, I do want the public to know that, if there are children or pets left unattended in a car, and, if MSP is dispatched to the scene to investigate, MSP will take all things into consideration. The temperature of the day, how long the children or pets have been unattended, and whether it appears the children/pets are in distress all are factors taken into consideration before any action is taken to remove the children or pets.

If the children or pets are found to be in distress, any means necessary to remove the children or pets will be taken.

I feel bad for that family having gone through that stressful situation, but there are two sides to every story, and, unfortunately, that Facebook post will not change the fact that MSP does not carry lockout kits, as most lock outs are not an emergency.

Ashley Simpson is the community service trooper for the Michigan State Police-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, Mich., 49707.