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Why Are Police Cars Left Idling?

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Nissan GT-R Police Car

If you walk past a parked police car, especially if it’s in front of a business, it is oftentimes still running. Regardless of how long a police officer’s task outside of the car might be, it’s not all that uncommon. But why do they do it, if it wastes gas?

A reader of the Answer Man of Minnesota’s Post Bulletin column asked him a similar question this week. While many of us assume it’s in case of an emergency, we’re only partly right.  It actually has a lot to do with what’s inside that police cruiser: tons of temperature-sensitive gear.

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Heat hurts

If you routinely drive with a lot of technology in your vehicle, you know that it’s not safe to leave it in a hot car for an extended period of time. The police cruisers of today have equipment like laptop computers and advanced radio systems that need protection from extreme temperatures. Keeping the car running means the climate control can protect all of those electronics.

Besides the risk of melted or overheated components, the computers inside the cruisers depend on a constant connection to keep the officer informed of what’s going on in the area. Capt. John Sherman of the Rochester Police Department told the Answer Man that electrical systems power down when the car shuts off, and if they are off for too long there could be connection problems when the car turns back on. This could delay the officer responding to a call or passing on any information they have gathered.

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More than computers

Modern police cruisers are full of computers, but that’s not the only reason they are left on. While officers are not paramedics, they are trained how to respond in several types of medical emergencies. This means that they carry medications, such as Narcan, that need to stay cool to be effective. If the vehicles keep powering off and the car gets too hot or too cold, large doses of medication could be lost.

While it’s unfortunate that police cars have to keep idling for these reasons, it’s not all bad news. According to Sherman, while idling traditional cars for a long time causes damage, car manufacturers specially engineer police cars to withstand it. That means those investments last as long as possible to serve the community.

Now that you know why police cars have to keep running, keep the look of shame to yourself next time you walk by one. That car is there for your safety.

News Source: Post Bulletin