With recent events surrounding law enforcement, the debate on whether police units should implement two-man patrol cars has been buzzing. As a direct result of the Dallas police shootings this past July, the Cleveland police department is one of many moving to two-man patrol cars in an effort to add a layer of safety to their law enforcement officers.
The argument against two-man patrol cars is tough to rebuke. Very few American law enforcement agencies have the man power to consider two-man patrol vehicles and those that do have the personnel need one-man vehicles just to cover the jurisdiction. Although one-man patrol cars are cost-efficient and effective, there are many benefits worth considering for moving to a two-man vehicle operation.
Safety in Numbers: Proponents of two-man vehicles believe criminals will think twice before attempting to ambush a patrol car with more than one officer. Having two officers in the vehicle can dissuade a potential attacker as it’s much more difficult to deceive and ambush. The additional benefit to safety in numbers is the argument that back-up is already present in a two-man vehicle. Calling for back-up is not always a sure thing. Officers on shift may be tied up or may not be able to respond quickly enough. Having another officer onsite at all times could have a substantial upside, especially in light of trying to address the highly publicized excessive use of force claims. The two-man system may allow for some flexibility in using different tactics and hopefully may slow the situation down so it does not escalate as frequently to the use of lethal force.
Decreased Liability: Two-man patrol cars create a lower number of law enforcement vehicles on the road which means less liability for the unit. Why? Simple, distracted driving. Two-man patrol cars allow one officer to be focused on driving while the other handles the radio, computer, and helps to “clear” an intersection during emergency response mode operation. With more than half of all police crashes caused by a distraction inside the patrol vehicle, adding a second officer to the car will decrease the likelihood of an accident.
Increased Visibility: Two-man patrol cars have the ability to observe more. Instead of just two eyes on any given situation, you have four, increasing the possibility of intercepting a randomly occurring crime.
While opting to move to two-man patrol cars may decrease the number of cars your agency has on the streets, the pros and cons of such a switch are important to weigh. If two-man patrol cars is something your agency cannot shift to full-time, consider a hybrid system using two-man patrol vehicles during heightened crime times such as in the evening or during midnight shifts, or in areas with higher crime rates.
No matter how you staff your patrol vehicles, it is vital to ensure your officers are adequately trained whether they patrol alone or with a partner, increasing not only their safety but that of the public as well.