Do the Police Get to Choose Their Car?

If you are considering a career in law enforcement, then you are likely aware that driving around in a police car is a huge part of your day to day job., especially if you are a rookie. When it comes to your patrol car there are many misconceptions most of them coming from movies or police series on tv. So, it’s time to set the record straight and discuss what you can and cannot do with your police car.

Some departments are more lenient with their patrol cars, some departments assign officers their car. However, some units within the police departments do drive different cars, so you will drive a different car when you join a new unit.

Before going to any career it’s best to throw any misconceptions out the window and get straight to the facts so that you can determine if this is the career for you. So, if you want to know more about what you can and cannot do with your patrol car then keep on reading!

Choosing Your Car

Do the Police Get to Choose Their Car?

The truth is that many police departments have their own set of rules when it comes to how their department operates. The majority of police departments across the country tend to assign patrol cars to their officers many of them being larger departments in large cities. If you are in a much smaller town then there may be a slight chance that you’ll be able to choose your car however it is highly unlikely.

Let’s face it, local police departments do not have the largest budget therefore not allowing them to fully accommodate their officers they especially do not have enough to let an officer choose his or her car.

Different Cars for Different Units

It is important to note that many police departments across the country consist of several units, in which the officers in each unit are tasked with overseeing specific areas in crime.

Whether it’s a drug or gang unit or possibly a plainclothes unit the officers will operate under their unit’s set of rules. This also means that each unit may have its kind of patrol car, especially for detectives and plainclothes officers. Here are a few popular cars used in several police departments.

  • Patrol Car: This is by far the most common car for every police department and is the most used car as well. The patrol car is used for officers that are regularly patrolling an area when they are not patrolling on foot. This is likely the kind of car you will be using when you enter the police department.
  • Response Car: This car is also known as a pursuit car and looks very similar to your average patrol car. However, this car can drive at higher speeds for the sole purpose of engaging in high-speed chases when pursuing a suspect by car.
  • Sport Utility Vehicle: This car is also known as an SUV this car is not particularly used for patrolling but instead used to either transport officers or to carry large pieces of equipment such as barricades, or even canines.
  • Unmarked Car: Although some uniformed officers are authorized to drive this particular car, it is mainly used by detectives. This car looks like an average car you would see on the street and does not resemble any of the patrol cars in the police department. Unmarked cars can be very advantageous because they are unrecognizable and can potentially lead officers to catch a crime while it is still taking place.
  • Riot Control Vehicle: These vehicles are much more militarized and are used as a source of crowd control. The riot control vehicle is heavily armored and is also equipped with a water cannon which is used to disperse a large crowd.
  • Other Forms of Transport: A few honorable mentions when it comes to police transport is horses that are typically used in the Mounted Unit. Bikes are also useful tools for policing especially in places like parks or college campuses.

Now that you have a full understanding of the kinds of cars that are used in police departments and which units, they are assigned to you can now decipher which unit you’ll want to join as you advance in your policing career.

Patrol Car Rules

When it comes to the car itself there are a set of rules that you’ll need to follow. Since this is city property any damage caused to the vehicle under your watch can lead to disciplinary action depending on what happened. Here are just a few basic rules that you should follow when driving your patrol car.

Do the Police Get to Choose Their Car?

Abide by traffic laws when on patrol during your shift. At the beginning of the shift, officers will be assigned their patrol car with the expectation that they will follow all traffic laws during their shift while driving the vehicle.

You are responsible for maintaining the car during your shift. At the beginning of your shift, your car will be assigned to you and you are responsible for maintaining its condition during your shift, also, you’ll need to report any maintenance issues to the department. Officers are also expected to return the car in a clean condition at the end of their shift.

Do not let civilians drive the car. The vehicle should not be operated by anyone other than the assigned officer or chief officer of the department. Any non-authorized person driving the car will face disciplinary action.

No personalized decorations are allowed. Officers are prohibited from placing any decorative items such as decals, signs, stickers, or bumper stickers to the car without authorization.

Although these rules seem very straight forward it is still important that you have a real understanding of the care that goes into the patrol cars and the responsibility that comes with it. The patrol cars are not your cars and you must treat these cars with the proper care to avoid any disciplinary action down the line.

Taking Home Your Patrol Car

Another great misconception that we must throw out the window is that officers are allowed to take their patrol car home after their shift. While this has some truth to it, it does come with a set of guidelines that can vary from police departments. Most police departments do not allow officers to take the car home because of safety reasons, and because it is city property.

Do the Police Get to Choose Their Car?

However, there are some cases in which police officers are allowed to take their patrol car home after their shift. Here are some guidelines for taking your patrol car home.

Officers who are expected to be called while off duty are authorized to take their patrol car home if they have to return to work after their shift.

In many counties across the country, the sheriff’s department does allow for their officers to take their car home after their shift. This is more common in rural areas.
Officers of higher rank such as deputies or captains can take their car home after their shift.

Although the idea of taking a car home may seem like an awesome idea it is still important to note that there are safety issues that do come with taking your car home. Additionally, it is important to note that you are still responsible for the car after your shift so you may want to reconsider the idea of taking the car home.

Wondering how to wash your police uniform? Check out our tips HERE.

Final Thoughts

It’s safe to say that nobody joins the police department because they want to drive a specific car, they become a police officer because they want to serve their community and make it safer for everyone. However, there are benefits to knowing which kind of car you will be driving when you do join the department, this gives you the advantage of practicing you’re driving in a similar car.

So, what should you take away from this article? Police cars are department property and any damage can lead to possible disciplinary action or financial responsibility on your behalf. Although some departments are flexible with their police car guidelines you should always be considerate and make it your duty to return it in mint condition at the end of your shift.

Q&A Section

Can I choose which unit I want to join when I apply to become a police officer?

As a rookie you will start as a patrol officer, however as time goes by, you’ll be able to apply to a unit of your choice, it is important to note that some units require an exam as part of the application process.

Can a state trooper take their car home?

Generally, yes, especially if they are working in a more rural area that is not so condensed. However, if you are a city officer you will not be able to take the car home

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.