City Government

Parked Police Prowlers Guzzle Gas

As the price of gas has climbed over the past six months, several GUARDIAN readers have asked about the practice of leaving public vehicles running for long periods of time.

The GUARDIAN editor noticed a marked police cruiser sitting at idle in the parking lot of a convenience store while the cop was inside sipping soda. Realizing that he was paying not only for the gas going into his own car, but also paying the police petrol contributing to global warming, he had a friendly chat with the copper.

To his credit the cop actually apologized for his actions. A lengthy philosophical and technical conversation followed regarding on board computers, radio back up, the price of gas-vs-extra battery and isolator. The officer said it was policy to leave the cars running so the computers don’t crash…sounded weak and we figured he REALLY wanted to keep the AC running to cool the car.

The GUARDIAN in a rare moment of fairness toward officialdom called Chief Mike Masterson to get the straight skinny on idle policy. We discussed the potential of extra batteries–including gel cells. He has promised to check it out and give the GUARDIAN and reader BIKEBOY credit if the cops are able to save gas and keep the air cleaner with a different approach to parked police prowl cars.

Chief Mike has a little greenie in his system because he told the GUARDIAN they will be using a juice dispenser left behind in the building which will be the new cop shop instead of running through 500 aluminum soda cans a day in vending machines.

Another really simple gas saving tip will be setting up a pickup and drop-off point for uniform cleaning at the new station—instead of each copper driving to the cleaners and running inside while their car is idling outside burning the gas we buy them.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Good write up! I drive a (police) issued pickup truck to haul all of my gear around for my assignment at work and go through an alternator and/or battery about every 6-8 weeks. The solutions presented to me were to pull the negative terminal off the battery post every time I shut it off or to leave it running. While I am not against a little extra work, the first obviously wouldn’t work for emergency response.

    I think there are a lot of technologies out there that would help cure this problem but sometimes it takes a look from the outside in to get it resolved. Thanks once again for helping us out.

  2. Along this same line…

    When I go to my bank, I comment just about every time about the drive up window and how they should close it down.

    Rushing to help the big idling SUV (even little tiny cars are not much better) at the drive up window is bad on many levels.

    It upsets all of us who’ve been standing patiently in line that they get immediate help while we just stand there.

    We also get to watch as the motor vehicle chokes us with its pollution, while the drivers hair gently flutters in the AC breeze.

    Here is my wish list to Dave Bieter for extra civic goodies…

    -Remove all drive through windows in Boise
    -Enforce noise ordinances by confiscating vehicles with noisy mufflers
    -Freeze the population of Boise at current levels and impliment a reduction strategy
    -Tax all vehicles driving into the city center every day from their suburban ranchette. (Just like London is now doing)
    -Sunday would be ‘Motor free day’ where no motor vehicles of any sort could be used on public roads
    -Learn why other cities all around America and the world are now actively preparing for “Peak Oil”.
    -Eliminate any subsidies to new growth, and axe CCDC.
    -Require all new building construction in Boise to be 0 energy.

  3. Dave,

    Being a former police officer, (or copper as you like to call them) I chuckled with curiousity as to why you would waste so much time on such a petty matter as this.

    If you and your readers have not done so already, you might want to consider attending the Citizen’s Police Academy and/or going on a ride-along or two with BPD or another local agency. This might open your eyes to the real day-to-day world of a police officer and why most officers really don’t care how much fuel they burn while they are on a break or at lunch.

    Here is what a typical patrol officer might be taking a break from in the local mini-mart while he or she is inside ‘sipping a soda’:

    – just informed a family member that their next of kin passed away
    – just arrested a street gang member for murder after a foot pursuit and fight
    – just took a child abuse report
    – just took a report of an aggrevated battery during a family fight
    – just arrested dad/husband for the aggrevated battery
    – just got to see and attempt to render aid to multiple dead bodies due to a head-on collision on the interstate
    – just got poked with a dirty hypodermic needle while searching a suspect
    – just spent the last 4 hours in a Level 3 chemical suit searching a meth lab in 100 degree heat.

    And the list goes on. Point is, the last thing on most officers’ minds when taking a break out in the field is how much fuel they are burning in their patrol units. Most likely they are making sure that if a robbery goes down across the street, they can hop in their vehicle to pursue a potential suspect without burning their hands on the steering wheel.

    I admire the officer you encountered for his or her professionalism and restraint. I probably would have given you a lecture on what was really important and invited you on a ride-along with me to find out (what is really important).

    Why not pick on taxi operators at the airport or UPS drivers? They leave their vehicles running also, but aren’t out patrolling the streets of Idaho in a life-saving capacity.

    EDITOR NOTE–You really missed the point! BOTH the chief and union president agree on this one!

    Are saying fuel saving and clean air are not worth a cop’s time because he had to deliver a death message, arrest a drunk husband, or investigate a fatal accident?

    Also note that UPS and Fed-X shut off their vehicles most of the time and none of them use fuel paid for with tax dollars.

  4. Shock Wave–
    Glad you are no longer a “copper” as the G Man calls them.

    You certainly provide a good defense for misbehavior on the part of all the paramedics, hospital staff, social workers, farmers, sewer workers, trash haulers, farmers, fishermen, and convenience store workers.

    Every one of them deals with the underbelly or society on a daily basis or has a job with a death rate MUCH HIGHER than cops. I don’t think even your “brothers” will support you on this one.

    “Screw the public, their air and pocketbooks because cops have dirty jobs?”

  5. Let’s move along…what you all have to say is quite boring…..

  6. Tim
    Boring? What have you done to cut some of the exhaust problems. Oh ya leave your SUV running at the gas pump so it will stay cool.

  7. Dave,

    What is the Boise Guardian’s obsession with Boise Police? Just curious. Is your office air conditioned? Oh, and by the way, everyone’s excuses aside, the computers do crash when you shut the car down for more than 2-3 minutes. But hey, what would the cop who actually drives one every day know about that anyway? Since I’m a cop and not a computer nerd, I don’t know how to fix that. Then again, I am a cop, so I’m probably just trying to deceive the public, take away people’s freedoms and do what I can to polute the environment. Get a clue!

    EDITOR NOTE–The police department is by far the most costly department in the city–about $40,000,000. There is absolutely NO CITIZEN OVERSIGHT. We have commissions or boards for parks, airport, library, design review, parking, public works. We have NO VOICE in the operation, policy, and budget of police (or fire).

    I don’t think citizens should be involved in “critical incident” or personnel matters, so that is off the table.

    As noted earlier, the Chief and union President both are on record agreeing that it is certainly worth taking a look at the cost-benefit ratio to add a second battery vs burning gas.

    I think the posting was fair and positive. What do you fear in having back up power to prevent computer crashes?

  8. Robert-
    Your exactly right..I do. Because I don’t buy the liberal drab of climate change because I have brain and have done the research rather than allowed my mind to be overtaken by the liberal media, like you.

    Lets all continue this debate while another illegal alien kills a 6 week-old baby, another one kills an innocent pedestrian, and still another shoots at a police officer; while United Paper prepares to sell itself out of a widespread uranium contamination problem (to the lowest bidder-City of Nampa); while the City of Boise continues to hold hostage the police dept, etc, etc. The point: many other things to discuss than this boring topic.

  9. Yes Mr. Logic (ironic pseudonym), I’m saying it’s not worth an officer’s time having to cool down a police vehicle or reboot a mobile data terminal to save a few ounces of Stinker Station fuel in lieu of a few seconds or minutes that might save someone’s life.

    Mr. Logic, until you strap on a firearm and a ballistic vest every day to prepare for your 8 to 5 job, you really have no standing with me or probably most of my ‘brothers’ when spouting off on the subject of public service and officer safety.

    But hey, if you take your argument to its (Mr.) Logical conclusion, you should obviously investigate and rat out those darn National Guard A-10 pilots at Gowen Field and their obvious misbehavior and disregard for hard-working taxpayers. I hear rumor they let their tax-payer funded jet fuel guzzling turbofan engines run between hot missions and while they are conducting pre-flight operations to keep the cockpits cool and the avionics running – to hell with the safety and comfort of our public servants, right? As long as it’s good for the environment and saves a few pennies, they’re expandable.

  10. Tim,
    Brain? No climate change? Research?
    What do you read? The comic page of the Statesman?
    Maybe put your mouth over the exhaust pipe of that SUV for 5 min’s and test it.

  11. More citizen oversight? What a great idea. Maybe you would like to come ride along with me and oversee my daily actions. You could make the decisions and take away my liability. You could decide whether to take a child out of a home. Or you could decide when to arrest someone’s dad while their 5 year old daughter is clinging onto them. Or you could decide when I can shoot back if I’m shot at…Decide who gets a citation…etc. I don’t mind doing these things. That is why I do my job and you do yours. I’m not going to tell you how rough my job is because it really doesn’t matter. I do it so you and other descent citizens don’t have to. Which citizens would you have oversee these things?

    Have you forgotten that this is a Representative Republic, not a democracy. If you don’t like whats going on, why don’t you vote in a new mayor and city council, not just try to shout the loudest and hope you get the attention.

    “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths…”,

    “We may define a republic to be … a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.” James Madison, Federalist No. 10, (1787)

    “A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

    That is all.

    P.S., I expect that those of you who think Boise’s air problems stem from vehicle emissions will display your unconquerable integrity by riding a bike to work every day. Thank you for your help in making Boise a cleaner place.


  12. I just wish the coppers would stay off their cell phones while driving. I observed four officers today – all talking on their cell phones while driving!

    AND two appeared to be working on their computers at the same time…..they seem to set a poor example of “attentive” driving…..and my kids noticed it too.

  13. This is exactly the “copper” attitude G and Shock that gets the public to distrust you in the first place. Instead of simply saying yes, we could save on a little gas, but we feel we have bigger issues to deal with. You fire back and get defensive.

    If the so called Computer Crash happens every time you turn the car off then what you are saying is they crash every night when you park them. Plus what do you really need the computer for to begin with other than to receive call info, run plates, and oh yeah, instant message each other. I think the only one worth mentioning in an emergency situation would be to receive call information, but then what do you have radios for? Anyway, I agree with Tim and know that if he says he did the research he did, he’s quite good at it.

    I am only arguing for argue sake because I think there are bigger issues with coppers than just how much gas they waste. I guess if that is our biggest problem we should be grateful.

  14. Thomas the tank
    Jul 18, 2007, 7:25 am

    As a former ASE certified master mechanic and a ‘thinker’ I can’t take this any more. Have you ever wondered why they want your vehicle warmed up for emissions testing? It’s this: a warmed up car pollutes less than a cold car. The burning and chemical reactions that take place in the catalytic converter need heat. When your vehicle is cold is is polluting, it won’t pass emissions. As soon as you turn the engine off, it loses its efficiency.

    Next the hardest time in a computer and an internal combustion (gas engine) and a compression combustion (diesel engine) are when they are started. On start up RAW gas or diesel makes it into the atmosphere. When the vehicle stays warmed up their are less emmissions. Next point, an engine that is allowed to idle instead of being shut off and restarted lasts LONGER, ask any Taxi company or any trucker. The savings are a moot point.

    Their may be global warming, but there is NO conculsive evidence that people have caused it. Stalinistic restrictions on freedom have no place in the USA as proposed by Blurton. Or was his post a joke?

  15. Mary and Snoop, how shall I refer to you? What is your career. The whole “coppers” thing is getting a little old. As far as snappy defensive remarks, I was telling the truth. The computers shut down because the battery cannot supply enough electricity when the alternator is not feeding it. The alternator doesn’t operate when the car is not running. We shut our computers off when we turn the cars off at night.

    It takes approximately ten minutes to go through the process of turning them back on, logging on, etc. in the start of shift. After approximately one hour of leaving all the electronics on after shutting the car off, the battery has a tendency to drain a lot. Then the police have to waste time and money calling someone to come jump start the patrol car. Its a bit of a waste. Pardon the sarcasm guys but you get a bit cynical after a while when you spend you time serving a public who constantly wants to tell you how to do your job. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know the first thing about being a doctor. When I’m at the doctor’s office, I don’t tell him, “Doc, I think you’re checking my pulse wrong, I’ve found a much better way to do it.” Do you? Yet, just because my salary comes from citizens’ taxes, many of them feel the need to back-seat drive everything we do. You may not know any officers personally. I can tell you, we’re human beings. I wasn’t born an officer and hopefully, I won’t die as one. I’m someone’s son, father, husband, uncle, brother, etc.

    I breath the same air you do. I don’t care if I never get another “thank you” as long as I live because I get enough satisfaction serving others. Contrary to what you might have been taught or what your personal bias is, for the most part, those in law enforcement are pretty decent people.

    As for the cell phones, we’re not just making stock trades or talking to our buddies. We have department issued cell phones to contact people like those that make the calls to dispatch, so that we can better utilize our response time and prepare for the call we’re going to. I’m sorry you don’t like the idea of a “copper” talking on our cell phones, trying to serve you better. I could make more cynical comments but I’m going to refrain. As for trust, it goes both ways.

    I don’t take it personal that you don’t trust me. I really don’t lose sleep over it. I’ve got a job that I’ve sworn to do and will continue to do it to the best of my abilities. Be safe. That is all.


  16. No argument there G. Hats off to ya!

  17. Wow, off the topic, but this thread reminds me of the transition period from military to civilian after three years of tool-of-the-state immersion.

    It’s way too easy to fall into the us vs. them mentality.

  18. Why are policemen and women allowed to work extra details with a City Supplied Vehicle that sits at an idle all day??

    Oh and by the way,,, fuel for UPS FEDEX etc vehicles are not paid from our taxes as City vehicles are..although BOTH sc enarios contribute to Global Warming

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