Officers driving patrol cars are by definition distracted drivers, and therefore a road hazard, no matter how good they are, or what their departmental policies say they should be doing.
Juggling While Driving
Officers are expected to listen and talk on the police radio, read text & maps on a computer screen, while driving to someplace they’ve likely never been to, possibly in the dark, and thinking about all the crazy life-threatening things that might happen once they get there. And that’s just distractions the job requires him to handle! Don’t forget that the officer may not have turned off the music he was listening to before the call came out, his wife might have just been yelling at him over the phone for something he did 2 months ago, he may not have eaten all shift because the city didn’t hire enough officer to handle the workload on his shift, etc. And you thought the guy using his knees to steer while eating a burger was dangerous!
Patrol cars often drive erratically. Repeatedly speeding up, then slowing down, speeding up, slowing down. Slamming on the brakes, whipping a u-turn, then driving like Ms. Daisy’s in the backseat. Running hard with lights and siren, then cutting them off and pulling into McDonald’s. Why is that? Because while most of us are driving from point A to point B, a patrol officer’s destination can change at the drop of a hat, either because of something he’s seen, or something that’s come in over the radio, and because his destination is one car after another that’s in motion. He may be searching for traffic violations that can only be seen if he pulls up to the cars, then slows down to get a good look. He may be driving down the road thinking about lunch, then catch a glimpse of what he thought was the dirtbag everyone’s been looking for driving the other way, only to finish that screamin’ u-turn to realize that he’s driving a Volvo, when the suspect vehicle was a Honda. Or maybe he’s driving hard to a shooting call, then he hears another officer on the radio report that it was a toy, so he suddenly cuts it off and pulls into McDonald’s for a much needed nature break. In short, he might not know where he’s going, so you should just give him a wide berth.
It May Not Be His Fault
Aside from keeping clear of patrol cars for your safety, the other point I want to make here is that what might appear to be careless or bad driving to you, may in fact be careful driving for a patrol officer. So, unless you see an officer just being blatantly dangerous, by texting and driving, or something, try to think about all the things that might be affecting his driving before you go calling his supervisor to file a complaint. Also, consider that his supervisor may not have driven a patrol car for many years, and may not remember what it’s like to have all those distractions fighting for your attention, while you’re driving. To be sure, the guys who wrote departmental policy almost certainly have no clue, and therefore little sympathy for an officer doing his best to do the job that they have tasked him with.
What kind of dangerous driving have you seen patrol cars doing? Have you ever filed a complaint? What kind of response did you get? Did anything you read here make you second-guess that complaint?