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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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Avoid Fried Chicken on the Steering Wheel

Here are a few tips on how to survive the unsanitary environment of a fleet car.

January 17, 2011  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author


Photo via Flickr (Elephant Gun Studios).

Dean Scoville wrote a Patrol Channel blog post about the trials and tribulations of working in a pooled fleet of patrol cars in October. There is one thing that I can never prepare a recruit for, and that is the lack of cleanliness of a patrol car.

Now, I have seen some issued or assigned patrol cars that are spotless, but that's rare. I wonder if they go off the paved roads with them and have they ever arrested a putrid drunk?

I don't care where you work; you'll hear stories of items found in squad cars that would require forensic DNA testing to identify. But it matters not; we have to survive and work in these less than stellar environments.

Minimizing Trash

You'll most likely find lots of trash in a shared car, most of which will probably be fast food wrappers. At least you don't have to worry about carbon paper.

I recall years ago our police incident reports had carbon paper between the pages to create copies. For the younger readers who are unfamiliar with it, please research carbon paper. There may be some in an administrative museum somewhere.

It used to be so ubiquitous that every shift I'd find a wad of carbon paper in my shared cruiser. To make matters worse, I'd then have to wash off all the ink that got on my hands from touching it to throw it away.

Back in the day we had a large population of tobacco users on the job. I'd find ashtrays, butts, cigars, air fresheners, nicotine covered windows, and not to forget the ever festive spit cup for the smokeless crowds. This may still be an issue for you.

Now, I admit to being a former tobacco user. (My wife tells me I am healthier now but jittery as all get out). I would try to clean up behind myself, but there were those who did not. Big hint here for smokeless tobacco users: Get a stackable potato chip container with lid. These are great makeshift spitoons, and the snap-on lid prevents spillage during a hot pursuit.

Rites of the Rookies

One of the first performance exercises your FTO will explain and have you perform is the inspection of the patrol car for duty. Of course, this includes checking the fluids under the hood and the back seat (prisoner area) for contraband.

Your FTO will tell you stories of prior arrests where after the prisoner was removed there was contraband or evidence found that was essential to a case. This happens all the time. So this is a true learning experience and a worthy one indeed.

However, inspecting the back seat also allows you to find and remove all of the chicken bones that are evidence of prior shifts' late night fast food runs. The leg and wing bones are a clue. It is important that you learn to think deductively as a recruit. If you see bones under the seat, then you will no doubt find chicken grease on the steering wheel and on the microphone during the shift.

Tissues and other assorted evidence of the cold and flu season are yet another clue. You should wear gloves for their removal, for there are some things you don't need to risk. Once again, the modern art of deductive recruit thinking reveals to us that the microphone needs to be sanitized-and don't even grab the steering wheel before cleaning it after discovering a nasty tissue cache.

Decontamination

Patrol car fleet survival is simple: Think decontamination at all times. Some departments keep cleaning supplies in the garage area. Most officers I know keep some kind of cleaning wipes around for the biological hazards often found in cruisers.

Before you start a shift, give the contact items such as the door handles, controls, steering wheel, microphone, keyboard, and the entire driver's cockpit area a quick wipe down. This is especially important during the cold and flu season. A pop-top container of disinfecting household cleaner wipes is best (and cheapest).

Of course, now there's hand sanitizer for the quick wipe-offs. Back in my day, before they made these, we all carried bottles of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to splash off with. The wintergreen type was the preferred choice.

The point here is to stay healthy. Just because you have to live in the patrol car for a shift doesn't mean you need to live amidst the rubbish from prior shifts.

Related:

Avoid Fried Chicken on the Steering Wheel

Tags: Officer Behavior


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