Ask a Cop: Why Do Police Officers Waste Gas?

Officers directing traffic leave their engines running for hours sometimes. Why?

Do you have something you'd like to ask a local police agency? Drop a note to brad.kava@patch.com and we will get the answer.


Why do police officers always leave their cars running when they are directing traffic at events such as the Aptos fireworks? I saw a highway patrol officer with his car running for hours there. It seems like an environmental waste. Can't they just get in their cars and turn them on if needed?

Answer, from Sarah Jackson, California Highway Patrol, Aptos division:

Patrol vehicles contain a large amount of electronic equipment: Mobile data computers, audio/video recording devices, and our communication radios. 

Because this is a significant drain on a battery, the vehicle must remain running or the battery will quickly run out. Our newer patrol vehicles are equipped with two full-size batteries, however this still is not adequate for extended periods of time. 

Officers also rely on the consistent availability of radio communication in order to be responsive to calls from the public or in cases of emergency incidents.
Another issue is a K9 Officer's vehicle. These are equipped with a special air conditioning system which must remian operational in order to provide a healthy work environment for the officer's K9 partner. (CHP does not have a K9 Officer assigned to Santa Cruz, but we do in other areas.)
An officer who is stranded with a dead battery and unable to respond to a call for service from the public is not acceptable to us, and would not likely be acceptable to the public needing our help.

Betsy January 14, 2013 at 07:06 PM
With the tech advances, l am sure an idea on how to save taxpayers $ and utilize resources better has to come out soon. How about solar activated equipment w back up storage batteries. A/C are already running on those in other countries.
Pro Frink January 14, 2013 at 08:30 PM
The amount of energy produced by pannels on a car would not be enough to keep things running. Also solar pannels are very fragile so adding then to a police car, not such a good idea. Then and perhaps most important there is cost. Because of the shape of a car hundreds of small pannels would be required so material plus labor plus all that wire plus extra-extra large batteries that add even more weight, it's cheeper to buy gas.
Jim Machado January 14, 2013 at 08:45 PM
With the advent of better technology in this day and age I do not believe these police cruisers have to be left running for hours on end while directing traffic etc. Not to mention the extra pollution they a spewing out, how about the total waste of taxpayers money for the gasoline that is being wasted. Modern two way radios and computers do not draw enough amperage to justify leaving these vehicles running while parked for so long. How about just re-starting the vehicle every hour or so for a few minutes to recharge the battery. I bet if the individual officer had to pay for the gas used, this outdated policy would change.
Pro Frink January 14, 2013 at 08:55 PM
I have to disagree based on scientific fact. If you can demonstrate a cost effective solution to the 'staning' problem please post it here as its a multi million dolar idea. Please list the cost effective hardware and a bil of off the shelf items that make this possible.
David H. Perez January 14, 2013 at 08:58 PM
What about installing an on-board compact generator in the trunks of police cars? Yes, they burn gasoline, but much less. They are also lightweight and don't take up much space. The portable generator that I have will power my entire RV for up to 14 hours on one gallon of gasoline.
Otto the bus driven man January 14, 2013 at 09:06 PM
I have spent a lot of time in the back of cop cars and they are always full of radio stuff and guns and crap.
Brian January 14, 2013 at 11:05 PM
advanced lithium battery technology would solve this problem but it would cost upwards of two grand or more per vehicle.
Crank Orr Jr. III January 15, 2013 at 03:17 AM
Another bait and switch by the patch staff. Who's running this site, a bunch of high school kids?
Robert Norse January 15, 2013 at 05:05 PM
So then SCPD vehicles are different? You don't see beat cops, or cops getting coffee--when they've parked their cars--leaving them running. Even when their cars are stopped in the middle of the street to deal with a "crime" like sitting on the sidewalk within 14' of a building (high on the hit parade of downtown ordinance citations), the car isn't usually kept running. Do the SCPD have supercars perhaps? Or is this just a superstory from the CHP?


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