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ASK A COP: Why Do Police Cars Roll Up to Crime Scenes With No Lights On?

Ask a Cop
Ask a Cop
Question from a reader in Montara, but it applies all over.

Q: An emergency in Montara had three sheriff vehicles speeding up 7th Street. No lights, no sirens. My friend who was walking with her baby and dog was afraid for her life as it was dark and she didn't know if the speeding cars would see her flashlight. Why do you keep your lights off? You could have had more than one emergency on your hands! 

A: From San Mateo County Sheriff's Public Information Officer Rebecca Rosenblatt:

Obviously without a more definitive date and a time to correlate to this call for service in particular, there is not enough information to know the exact call the Deputies were responding to when the reader experienced the described incident, however I can speak generically to what she described. 

Deputies do generally drive with their headlights on at night just as the vehicle code expects of all drivers driving their vehicles in times darkness. That having been said, there is a tactical element members of law enforcement sometimes have to take into consideration in dark or low-light conditions that is not something the average citizen finds themselves in a position to have to take into account. 

The element of surprise can be lost if a perpetrator sees law enforcement coming, a scenario that can have put a victim's well-being at greater risk depending on a suspect's mind set or the nature of a particular call for service.

 In regard to the reader's concern for public safety, members of law enforcement are submitted to stringent tactical driver training otherwise known as EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operations Course), which involves both classroom instruction as well as hours of real life driving skills testing covering everything from driving in inclement conditions, parking, braking and pursuit driving to name a few.

Successful completion of tactical driver training is one of many skills mandated for graduation from the police academy and reiterated in training throughout the careers of those in law enforcement. When a member of law enforcement responds to an incident in progress where seconds count, they look to their training to get themselves where they are needed while also maintaining a due regard for the public safety.

Leave your question in the comments below or email brad.kava@patch.com and we will get you an answer.


Jay Samples August 27, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Jay Samples August 27, 2013 at 01:00 pm As the PIO stated, police officers do that in order to sneak up on a subject, or to otherwise arrive unannounced. For example, most police departments procedure for responding to domestic violence situations is to arrive with your emergency lights/sirens off. Since the light and noise carries for a great distance at night, that can mean several blocks away. The function of the emergency lights and siren is to warn traffic and pedestrians to stay out of the way when a police officer or other emergency vehicle is responding to an emergency, but the reality of the situation is the way the public will respond to the light and sirens is really unpredictable, and police officers train to drive very fast, often in dangerous situations, safely, responding to traffic conditions as they present themselves, whether the lights and sirens are being used or not. Sometimes it's safer for a police officer to not use them the lights and sirens. Just think if you were in trouble and needed the police, how would you want them to respond to help you? Fast and if necessary, silent, or slow and announcing their arrival from miles away?
Susan Pellizzer December 30, 2013 at 04:04 PM
I was wondering why not all crimes are reported by the press and/or Police Department. I understand if a crime would further potentially harm the victim these stories are withheld, but I was a victim of an armed home invasion by three men with guns and was never reported. I am not seeking news coverage but what I do think is important is warning the general public about the threat of this crime. I am not a drug dealer, or part of a gang or any other affiliation that would deem myself or home as a target. What was interesting though during the time of the crime, Redwood City was doing a survey about real estate and signs of economic turn around for the city. This crime was very real to me and my family and what the closing price of a piece of real estate sold for in my neighborhood took a back burner. Being honest to the general public would be my main concern as a tax payer for many many years in this City.

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