Police Life Hacks

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Police Life Hacks

Every officer I know had a few little secrets they used to keep life living in a squad car bearable. You know those little things that made living for eight-plus hours a day in a car possible. Perhaps it was a travel mug for your coffee that saved you from a scalded lap on several occasions. Maybe you found special clipboard or range bag that made your life a little more organized. For some it was a vented seat that made those hot summer days possible.

If you have your own squad that you don’t share with the next watch it simplifies things. You can customize your compartment to meet your needs rather easy. If you are handing over your squad to another crew at the end of the watch you need to have everything removable. If you never know what car you will be working the next tour you need to simplify things even further.

In 1983 when I started the front seats were rather barren. We had nothing. No computer, no radio (police or personal). There were no cup holders and there were no ashtrays or cigarette lighters once the vehicle had achieved a certain age. All you had were hot vinyl seats.

We wore a police radio on our belts so there was none in the car. There was only the MARS control box for lights and siren and the PA. We discovered that we could rubber band a small AM/FM radio to the MARS box. Some worked well some never received a good signal. At least you got the weather and a ball game in-between calls.

Cup holders were always a problem. The plastic ones that hung on your door never worked well. You were either knocking them off or breaking them. I ended up taking a piece of 2×4 about a foot long. I drilled a two-inch hole at each end almost all the way through. If you had a split bench seat you could put the wood block on the trans hump and then wedge it down and hold it in place with your baton between the seats. It worked well for about eight years.

I carried a leather ticket book and kept it closed with a Velcro strap. Moreover, I found that if I used a longer strap I could strap my cup holder block to the book and move it between shifts with ease.

I remember a wagon crew that built a large wooden box for the seat. It had cup holders built in as well as a large flat top that worked as a writing surface and dining table. The lid was hinged and they kept all the reports inside that they might need. Since the same people worked the wagon on all the shifts, for the most part, they kept the box in the vehicle’s cab.

As I’m sure you all have experience blood stains on your uniform shirts. Whether from wrestling with a drunk or aiding a battered wife you are bound to get some on your shirt. I had the front of my shirt red with blood from an auto crash victim’s head wound and imagined that my shirt was ruined. A nurse at the E/R handed me a bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide and said, “Here, for your shirt.” When I said, “Huh,” she told me that is what all the E/R nurses use to get rid of blood on their scrubs. That night when I got home I soaked the shirt in the Hydrogen Peroxide. The blood bubbled up and rinsed right out. The color didn’t fade out at all. Since then I always keep a bottle of it handy.

Squad cars today don’t offer you the free space in the front like we had. You must be much more creative to work with all the radios and computers you share the front seat with. You officers, who work in more rural areas need more equipment then urban officers since no one can respond with what you need. Your back up could be hours away not minutes. If it starts to rain you can’t run into the station and grab your raincoat. You better have it with you. Sadly, it looks like you have less and less room to use. So, what do you do to make your tour of duty more comfortable? How do you make that front seat less painful?

If you work in a large metropolitan area you’ll find many places open 24 hours where you can get a meal. If you work in a small town or suburban area that might not be the case. I spent eight years in a Chicago district that had no place for an officer to grab a bite to eat on midnights. A lot of people brought something to eat from home others learned to eat microwaved burritos from a 7-11.

I’m sure the female officers have a few great ideas. They’ve had to make do with men’s holsters and equipment for decades so they learned to modify and adjust things to suit them better. So, ladies how have you made your work environment suit you better?

Please comment below and let us know your little police life hacks. Share with us how you make your tour of duty more comfortable.

Robert Weisskopf is a retired Chicago police lieutenant. In thirty years, he rose from police officer to sergeant, to lieutenant, serving every role in patrol with 18 months detailed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development leading a team for narcotics enforcement. He became a member of the Lieutenants Union and served as its’ president for six years negotiating two contracts. He also served as vice president of the Illinois Police Benevolent Protective Association. He’s a divorced father with three sons.

(Photo courtesy Robert Weisskopf)

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Author
Robert Weisskopf

Robert Weisskopf is a retired Chicago police lieutenant. In thirty years, he rose from police officer to sergeant, to lieutenant, serving every role in patrol with 18 months detailed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development leading a team for narcotics enforcement. He became a member of the Lieutenants Union and served as its’ president for six years negotiating two contracts. He also served as vice president of the Illinois Police Benevolent Protective Association. He’s a divorced father with three sons.

9 Comments

I too worked in the Chicago area, so we know the weather is fickle. I had a small gym bag that had my rain gear that I would take with me, it also included a towel which cam in handy on many occasions. I always had a water bottle, before they were fashionable, with a top that would twist open or closed, got it from Jewel. In the summer I would fill it half way and freeze it so the water would stay cold. When the edict came down we had to wear safety vests I could never get mine to fit in the case, found an elastic blousing strap at a surplus store, rolled it up and secured it that way. Always had pencils for the winter for taking notes, pens freeze, and Off mosquito repellents wipes for the summer. Also for the winter months had some hand warmers like hunters use. I tried to be as self sufficient as possible. Didn’t like to hang around the station.

I knew an officer who carried an inflatable life raft because he worked the lake front. I always carried a Bite Stick in the summer in case of a bee sting.

Gel pens were the best for freezing weather. They always work. But it’s the wrong pen when it’s raining.

The control box for the sirens and lights always provided enough heat to keep a pen from freezing if you laid it above where the switches are.

Red taillight lens tape worked great for making the interior light red for working nights before the new cars included both red and white.

I keep a 3 foot length of pipe in my trunk to help loosen tight lug nuts. I also keep a 4 way lug wrench and a hydraulic floor jack in the trunk. You only change a tire on the side of the interstate once with a scissors jack to learn you don’t want to do that ever again!

Industrial size garbage bags work great when someone has soiled themself. Cut two holes in the bottom and make them wear it like a diaper. It also helps contain vomit.

I was in a department that wore campaign hats and required we wear them. We had 6 hour foot patrols as well. In the hot weather I would fill up a ziplock bag with ice and pit it on my head underneath my cover.

The most important thing I use is my 12v charger / FM transmitter, so I can charge my phone and play music over bluetooth in the cruiser. iClever Wireless Bluetooth FM Transmitter.

I’m jealous. we never had am/fm radios in the car. at least not in the marked and tact cars. Once I got a take home car it had a radio but only because I knew a guy.

I had a mini-boombox that I would place in the top center of the vinyl tan front seat. I would place the antenna through the wire prisoner cage that separated the front and back seats. It worked to get am/fm reception with a car that did not have an am/fm radio installed. We had a single pull switch to activate the overhead lights and the box that controlled the PA and the siren.

OUR sURPLUS 1979 cHEVY iMPALA hIGHWAY pATROL CARS HAD STOCK am RADIOS. i FOUND A fm AND tv BAND CONVERTOR TUNER ON SALE FROM jc wHITNEY. uNFORTUNATELY, MOST OF OUR LOCAL TV STATIONS WERE OFF THE AIR ON MIDNIGHT SHIFTS. aT MY OTHER aGENCY, MY FIRST uNIT HAD NO RADIO AT ALL. tHE SIREN CONTROL BOX WAS MOUNTED IN THE RADIO SLOT. i BUNJI CORDED A MINI BOOM BOX ABOVE MY HEADREST TO THE SCREEN, THAT WAY i DIDN’T HAVE TO TURN IT UP TOO LOUD AND i WAS PROTECTED FROM SPITTERS.

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