“What's all that stuff in your car” ???
That is a very common question while I am on traffic stops and when people talk to me in or around my patrol car. All OHP units have basically the same equipment but I doubt any two are just alike. Since most of these things are bought with public funds I believe anyone who reads this has the right to know what we have as equipment.
All troopers who work in the field basically call their patrol unit their office. As with anyone who has their own desk in an office which they work from it must be set up the way you want it and in a way you are comfortable with. I hate more than anything to have to drive someone else's unit when mine is being repaired. To operate all the radios, the radar, lights etc. under stress such as responding to an accident, a pursuit etc. anyone must be familiar with the unit they are driving. Now to the question at hand.....
When I get into my unit to begin a shift there are several things I must do. I had to write these down to list because they are such habit I don't even think about it. The first thing is to turn everything on. Right now for me personally, that means eight different devices. That means the radar, the video camera, state radio, county radio, CB, siren and light controller and laptop computer. In addition I have my own Sirius satellite radio receiver which to me is a necessity for someone in a car for most of an eight hour shift everyday.
The traffic radar requires daily accuracy checks with tuning forks as well as an internal test it runs itself. The “state radio” is a low-band radio that is restricted to OHP, OSBI and state game wardens. This allows us to talk directly to headquarters in Guymon and other troops when traveling. This system is antiquated and not the best but most of the time works acceptably. It will have to do until money becomes available to upgrade statewide. The “county radio” is “high-band” and allows us to communicate with sheriffs offices and police departments as well as officers and deputies in the field. The state does not furnish troopers with “county radios”. These are purchased by troopers themselves, the local DA or someone else. I have never understood that one. Some troopers have CB radios but they also must be purchased privately. I like one in case I need to talk with truckers on a call or to tell them where to pull over safely. The in-car video camera is state provided and is very useful in cutting down on bogus complaints about officers actions. Most agencies have them now. The last is a laptop computer that allows us to do much from our cars that we formerly had to do on the radio or by hand. Not all troops have them and ours is currently not in use for communication. Until the first of this year we had a satellite link but that was dropped the first of the year due to enormous expense. DPS is currently working to make use of cellular technology (much less expensive) acceptable. I hear it is getting closer.
We are issued many other items including of course weapons, a floor jack for helping others change flats, a first aid kit and a few other less interesting items. Our units and equipment have changed a great deal since I started with the patrol and especially since I started out in law enforcement in 1988. In those days probably 99% of law enforcement officers carried revolvers. I remember making fun of the guys who first went to semi-automatics as a sidearm. They jam, look silly etc. were some of the things said. Oh how times have changed......
That is an overview of OHP equipment. Technology has improved many times over and the world has changed in a way that forces us to change along with the times. If anyone who reads this column would like to see the equipment I would be happy to show you. Just not while being stopped for breaking the law !!!
Trooper Duane Johnson #280
Oklahoma Highway Patrol