Police cruiser computers

I’m trying to find out why our local officers think they must leave their cars running 24/7. They believe they could have re-booting issuses with the computer they use to track plates and such. Aren’t these computers laptops with batteries?

links would be good. Thanks in advance MK

I think it has more to do with comfort. Whenever I see a police cruiser idling, it is almost always occupied by a human officer or a canine officer. It might also have to do with readiness to respond to an emergency. I don’t think anyone here knows where you live and what type of computers the police in your area use.

I doubt it has anything to do with rebooting computers. It would be very easy to power the computer from the car’s battery without the car running. It probably has more to do with their policy or individual convenience. Is this a problem for some reason?

Thanks Jeremy- I’ll check out the type of computer. No issues if there are living things in the car. You are right, it could get pretty hot in a car even in PA. Perhaps car carport would be a good idea, especially when it snows. Thanks again.

With the high cost of fuel we are trying to find money for training and equipment. We don’t have a problem when they are on patrol with how they make their stops. It is when there are 3 cars running in front of the station while they are in a meeting that is a bit frustrating. They do an excellant job otherwise.

If the computers are really their concern, I would investigate if they can be powered without the cars running.

Another realty may be that those cars take such a beating during it’s life time that if they do turned them off it is a possibility it would gieve them a hard time to start again.

California Hwy. Patrol never turned them off either and had little porblems with the car. Down where I am living they turned off all the time and always have a problem with the cruisers

Quite sure it has NOTHING to do with the computer…They’ve been doing that LONG BEFORE PC’s were even invented. Pretty sure it has everything to do with comfort. Remember the car is the office.

First off, leaving the car idling while you run in for a doughnut or whatever uses practically no fuel, so it’s not something Joe Taxpayer needs to be that concerned about.

My other thought is that even, though all the computers, radios, lights etc can run off the battery without the engine running, they probably run the battery down pretty quickly, especially if the car’s parked somewhere with the flashing lights on. It probably is a policy thing-- the motor pool probably figures the minute amount of fuel used by idling costs less than even a couple of roadside assistance calls per year to jump dead batteries in the field.

Even if these accessories can run on the car’s battery while it is off, it would loose power when the officer starts the car up again like all accessories. As a truck driver I have been frustrated by a worn out starter and would consider idleing the car or truck simply to preserve the starter, but only for short periods, not while I was inside attending a meeting.

If you mean the computer they use to check on perps, then I suspect it has a battery in it. Especially if it is a standard lap top that is strapped into the car. Check the specs on their computer. If it has a battery, it should be OK for 3 to 4 hours without power. The computer can be set to turn off after a certain amount of time off of an outside power source.


Exactly right, the batteries may last 15 min. at best. Then the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) program that the patrol computer is hooked to is designed to automatically “Log Off” an inactive computer. Logging back onto the busy system is time consuming if you’re on your way to a call and need the computer as soon as you get back in the patrol car.



Why is it important to have a police radio on when you are not in the car? Just curious.

If I understand correctly, you are involved with the management/budget of the PD. Decide what you need them to do, go to their supervisors and change the rules. If they need to reconfigure their computers’ power supplies so they can shut off their cars, make it happen. This sounds like a management problem, not a technical problem.


Thanks for all your thoughtful answers. Yes, I’m newly elected and prefer to gather as much first hand info as possible. It would certainly be reasonable to turn the cars off at night. We are not worried about the car running for short stops or on a day like today. Since I don’t do well with battery operated things, I can relate to those issues. Thanks again

In the 60’s, I spent some time in the Crash Rescue team at Gray airbase at Fort Lewis, WA. We had those gigantic crash trucks, and we had a 15 second goal of leaving the station when we got a hit. So, we had to leave our radios on all the time. At that time, those radios used a lot of current. So, we had to leave the charger on all the time in the station. When we got a hit, someone was assigned to unplug the charger cable while the rest of us piled on the truck. Whoever was monitoring the phone was trained to hit the door switch first before he hit the station alarms. :slight_smile: