feature2024-02-05 at 1.10.28 PM

Working during the winter months in New England can be a challenge as to what you carry in your cruiser. There is always a battle between what you need, what you think you need, and what you end up needing versus space in the car. Here are some of the things I have found handy or necessary to have in your car if you work in a cold climate.

Emergency gear for cars

I keep a set of jumper cables in my cruiser year-round. I usually end up having to jump-start other cops, especially with all the electronic equipment in police cars today. But I have also come across people who broke down or were stranded and just needed a jump start. Sure, you can wait for a rotation wrecker service to jump-start someone’s car, but that can tie you up for an hour while you wait for them, especially in rural areas where wreckers are few and far between. And if you work in a small agency, you may be a one-man band, and tying yourself up for that long may be counterproductive. Once you are aware that they are stranded in the cold, you own them.


Snow Shovel

Snow shovels and brushes can help you out at the station or on the street.

Nothing is worse than having to switch into a spare or reserve car and finding it covered in snow or plowed in. Or you are in the station with a prisoner or working on paperwork and come outside and find that it snowed a few inches while you were inside. A snow brush and a shovel are handy to dig out and clean off vehicles. And you may find yourself or your wingman stuck in the snow. A shovel may help get you out without the headache of calling for a wrecker or public works to pull you out.


I carry a couple of blankets in my car in case I find somebody in the cold. Once, I was on patrol on the midnight shift, checking a large condominium complex in town. While driving through, I found a heavily intoxicated elderly female who had fallen while going to the dumpster and was half dead from hypothermia. I was able to wrap her in blankets and get her in my cruiser until the ambulance arrived to transport her for treatment. In my rural town, the ambulance can take a while to get to you. They are volunteers and need to get their car defrosted enough to drive to the ambulance barn safely and then drive to the call. That can mean a long wait for somebody cold and struggling to stay alive.

Issues can happen at any time of the day and night.

Water and snacks

A couple of bottles of water and some protein or energy bars can go a long way if you get held over or ordered in due to a storm or bad weather. Especially if the power goes out and your local stop-and-rob is closed.

The occupants can get help here; what about on a less-traveled back road?

Multi-phone charger

I have found a bunch of people who have broken down or stuck in snow over the years. Often, their car battery is dead, and their phone may be dead as well. Many times, people don’t remember the telephone numbers of someone they can call for help or a ride if their phone has died. Having a charger they can plug into while they warm up in your cruiser may allow them to get in touch with a family member or friend to help them.

We can’t forget road flares. They are useful when needing to block a lane or a road if it is impassable.

Flashlight batteries

Small packages, little things, but having extra batteries is a good thing!

The cold wreaks havoc on batteries. I always keep a supply of fresh batteries for my flashlights in my car.


Patrol considerations

Patrolling in cold and snowy weather has its own set of problems. People become lost, break down, get stuck, and are often stranded in snow or cold weather. Most people are not equipped to spend any amount of time in the cold. People will leave their houses in beat-up vehicles, wearing Cookie Monster pajamas and Crocs in the dead of winter. I tried to check my back roads and love lanes for people who had broken down, were stuck, or parked to make out. People (including police officers) had died due to carbon monoxide poisoning when their exhaust was clogged with snow, or they had backed up against a snow bank.

A fellow officer found a couple who were parked and fooling around, unconscious in their vehicle because they had inadvertently blocked their exhaust. He was able to get the doors open, and the people recovered.


Checking your beat

There are plenty of opportunities for problems in these conditions.

I also tried to check roads for snow and ice to call out the highway department to clear the roads before a crash occurred.

Chimney and house fires are also common in the winter. I have found a few fires late at night when people were asleep. Wires down due to snow load is another concern.


My mantra is never let your gas get below ½ a tank when it’s cold or bad weather. You may not be able to fuel up if it gets busy or you get stuck in the snow yourself. Rural towns are often larger, and your calls for service may be further apart.

Tow truck drivers are going to be busy and spread pretty thin.

Final Thoughts

Your patrol vehicle can and should be set up to support you during inclement weather. Those same preparations can help members of your community.