We posed this question to Lucy Crockett, a spokeswoman for the Wilmington Police Department, who then asked several officers for their input. Following are some of the reasons officers might leave their cars running:
The most important reason is that the large amounts of electronic equipment installed inside modern patrol vehicles — like the laptops, dash cameras, radios, siren boxes, light chargers, etc.—suck up tons of power. Each time the vehicle is cut off, an officer has to turn off all that equipment or run the risk of draining the vehicle’s battery power in minutes. And then when they get back inside, they would have to turn all that stuff back on and wait for it to reboot before driving again. This especially comes into play when vehicles park with their sirens on, because the flashing lights eat up a lot of battery.
There is also the action-oriented reason. Officers may jump out of their vehicles in response to emergencies and leave their cars running. During traffic stops, officers are supposed to keep their vehicles running so they can quickly give chase if the person being pulled over decides to flee.
Also, repeated startups inflict a lot of wear and tear on the internal electronic components.
It also bears mentioning, Crockett said, that K-9 units keep their vehicles running to control the climate for the dogs inside. That is a safety factor, particularly during the summer, she said.
“That’s not to say there’s not any officer who leaves their vehicle running to cool off, but we hope those are isolated cases,” Crockett said. “If anybody sees a situation that appears to be wasteful in that way, they should let us know.”
Date posted: January 21, 2011
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