As discussed previously in my officer survival mindset articles there is a certain importance and significance to the statement of ‘perception is really reality”. If there is the appearance of command presence then quite possibly the real command presence should not be far behind.

As with uniform appearance of the officers, the police vehicle should adhere to the same requirements.  For command presence, all officers should present a unified similarity in their uniform appearance.  That means all are dressed alike.  The patrol vehicles must have the same appearance.  The most visible police related asset in the public’s eye and mind is the patrol vehicle.  Like the most visible officer on any scene is the sergeant with the three stripes on the shirt sleeves.  The patrol vehicles must be free of dents, clean, and properly maintained to present a picture of police competency.  Simply stated nothing looks more unprofessional than officers not in the same type uniform; or vehicles on the road in disrepair. The patrol vehicle, like the police officer, must be a symbol of what the citizen’s respect, and the criminal fears.  When a vehicle is out of service it is of no use to anyone, just like an officer calling in sick. Both will have to be replaced during the shift.   Keeping the entire fleet on the road is critical to the health of an agency.

Officers spend their entire shift in these vehicles.  They must have the proper equipment and everything must be working properly.  There is no excuse for anything not being 100 percent operational.

The patrol vehicle was been compared to a person’s office.  Everything should be readily assessable.  Things happen quickly and searching for items could be fatal.  When an officer has to bail out of their vehicle, they should be able to grab everything they would need.  Having to unlock and remove items from the trunk in an emergency such as a patrol rifle or shotgun is putting the officers unnecessarily at risk.

Most departments have adapted the take home car policy which limits the wear and tear on the vehicles.  The fleet is usually is maintained better because the officers have a personal interest in their police vehicle being their own.  The mileage remains lower for a longer time frame as the vehicles are not on the road 24 hours a day.  Everything is maintained better as everything is assigned to one officer.  Accountability for each vehicle is limited to the officer assigned.  The vehicles do not have to be replaced or rotated out of service as often.  While the initial costs might be a bit higher, the vehicles last longer, there are fewer repairs, morale is higher and the public sees a more professional police appearance.

A patrol vehicle with faulty equipment, high mileage or in disrepair places the officers in danger, increases the chances of vehicle accidents, harms the department’s image, opens the city for lawsuits, and sends a careless message of police service to the taxpayers.