Deputies often leave their vehicles running
Sometimes people wonder why Sheriff’s Office deputies leave their vehicles running at lunch, at crime scenes and while they fill out paperwork in the parking lot of the Summit County Justice Center.
A deputy on Monday sat in a patrol pickup truck in the Sheriff’s Office parking lot in Silver Creek for at least 40 minutes with the engine running.
"For them to be in the vehicle using their equipment, that is very normal," said Detective Ron Bridge, a spokesman for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. "They come to the Justice Center and they still utilize the equipment inside their vehicle. Wirelessly, they can download their videos from their computer as soon as they connect to the server in the parking lot. And they can utilize the facilities here."
But idling vehicles use gas, which this week cost more than $3 per gallon in the Park City area.
"The sheriff issued a general order approximately three years ago that a vehicle is not to be left running while it is unattended," Bridge said. "If a deputy goes to dinner his car is not to be left running. If he is at the Sheriff’s Office and his car is unattended, and he’s not utilizing the equipment inside it, it is not to be left running."
Critics question whether patrol vehicles should be left running at traffic stops and while deputies are investigating crime scenes.
"If he is investigating a crime his vehicle will need to be left on," Bridge said. "Each vehicle is equipped with an onboard camera system, which records traffic stops. The camera takes quite a bit of power."
The police vehicles are also equipped with onboard computers, printers, radar systems and communication radios. Shutting down the vehicle requires rebooting the computer.
"People don’t really understand, looking at a police car, what kind of power that it pulls. We regularly blow up batteries and alternators," Bridge said.
Park City officials endorsed a statement against idling vehicles. They encourage drivers inside the city limits to not keep engines running when their cars and trucks are not moving. Supporters say discouraging the practice of keeping engines running will be good for the environment and public health.
But the resolution in Park City acknowledges that idling is warranted in some cases, including when emergency personnel are on a call and when a vehicle must idle to provide power, such as in the cases of police SUVs and trucks with refrigeration systems.
The issue could come up on the campaign trail as Republican Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds seeks his third term in office. South Summit Democrat Dax Shane is challenging Edmunds this year. Shane is currently a Salt Lake City police officer.
"I really like what Salt Lake has done. We’re not allowed to leave our cars idling at all," Shane said in a telephone interview. "That has been a big concern of Salt Lake City. I know they face that quite a bit."
He said he would consider a similar anti-idling policy if elected sheriff.
"I would definitely look into something like that It’s important to people and it’s an important issue," Shane said. "I’m very conscientious of the environment, as far as do we need to always have these vehicles idling? If you’re doing a report, why can’t you turn your car off?"
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