automobile patrol | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Policing

Automobile patrol is a method of police patrol utilizing radio technology and the speed of automobiles to respond rapidly to calls for service.

Automobile patrol is a cornerstone of modern police work, allowing officers to cover a large area quickly and respond rapidly to calls for service. This method of police patrol emerged in the early 20th century as automobiles became more common and reliable. The first recorded use of an automobile for police patrol was in 1901 when the Akron, Ohio police department began using a bicycle-mounted officer to chase down speeding motorists. By the 1920s, automobile patrols had become the norm in many cities, with officers using radio technology to communicate with each other and dispatchers.

Automobile patrol offers several advantages over other forms of police patrol. First, it allows officers to cover a much larger area than foot or bicycle patrols, which can be especially important in sprawling urban areas. Second, it allows officers to respond quickly to calls for service, whether they be reports of crimes in progress or requests for assistance from citizens. Third, it allows officers to observe and monitor a large number of people and vehicles, which can help prevent crime and detect suspicious activity.

However, automobile patrol also has some drawbacks. One concern is that officers may become too reliant on their cars and neglect other forms of policing, such as foot patrols or community engagement. Another concern is that automobile patrols can be expensive, both in terms of the cost of vehicles and equipment, as well as the cost of fuel and maintenance. In addition, some critics argue that automobile patrols can create a sense of distance between police officers and the communities they serve, as officers may spend much of their time driving around and responding to calls rather than interacting with citizens on a personal level.

Despite these concerns, automobiles remain a key component of modern policing. Advances in technology, such as in-car computers and GPS systems, have made it easier for officers to communicate with each other and dispatchers and to quickly access information about suspects and vehicles. Some police departments have also experimented with new forms of patrol, such as the use of electric vehicles or the deployment of police drones. As technology continues to evolve, it is likely that patrol vehicles will remain a central part of policing for many years to come.

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Last Modified: 04/10/2023


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