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Feng shui for the patrol vehicle

Having equipment well organized and consistently located in the patrol vehicle allows cops to focus on the important things

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If you’ve never had something roll under your brake pedal while driving, I applaud your organizational skills.


Feng shui is an ancient Chinese art the goal of which is to promote harmony and a sense of well-being through careful arrangement of your physical environment. Some feng shui practitioners dictate you should arrange colors with their corresponding direction – black furniture and accoutrements should be north and red should be south – while others are more generic, embracing basic organization and avoiding clutter.

Not knowing a yin from a yang, I may not be the best resource for those seeking Zen. Still, the concept of using organization to increase our efficiency and destress our environment is solid and readily understood even by the least enlightened among us.

Those Without Zen

If you’ve never had something roll under your brake pedal while driving, I applaud your organizational skills. For the rest of us mortals, it can be quite disturbing. If all of your equipment has a place and is in said place, things like that are much less likely to happen. Sloth is our enemy. Order is our friend. Order means never having to plunge your hand into a sea of convenience store cups and spent beef jerky wrappers reaching for the radio mic en route to a call. All it really takes is some effort and effort is the only thing in this world over which we have 100 percent control. A little extra of it goes a long way to reducing our stress.

Clutter Creates Stress

In an article for “Psychology Today,” Dr. Sherry Bourg Carter writes, “Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces and ourselves. Messy homes and workplaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless and overwhelmed.” Even more than the stress that comes from not being able to immediately access gear when it’s needed, clutter creates stress by just being there. Dr. Carter also notes that clutter causes distraction and that’s the last thing we need in our mobile offices.

The Plan

Prioritizing is the first step in any logistical operation plan. What can you keep in the trunk or rear cargo area of your patrol vehicle and what needs to be readily accessible? We have to find a balance between what is most critical and what equipment is used the most. For example, you will use your report clipboard a lot more than you’ll use your long gun (hopefully). Still, placing your clipboard in front of the release switch for your rifle probably isn’t a good practice.

Speaking of report forms, a good metal clipboard with storage for forms is invaluable. You can keep items like extra pens and diagram templates along with extra forms. When I was on patrol, I always brought my clipboard into the report room at the beginning of each week to refill it with blank forms. I always stacked the most used forms in the back and least likely to be used in the front. That way, it would be more difficult to forget if I used the last one of a more obscure form. I guarantee the next call will be the one in which you’ll need the paperwork you don’t have.

Drawers and Organizers

Feng shui is mostly accomplished by effort, but some commercially available products can help.

Compartment storage trunks are great, but need to be permanently mounted. If your department doesn’t already provide them, that purchase may not be practical for the individual officer. However, plastic organizers that fit over the passenger’s seat can be invaluable. These items are the answer for those without the privilege of a take-home patrol car. The quality models have storage space for a large clipboard, flashlight, extra cuffs, etc. Just load it from your personal vehicle to the passenger seat of your assigned unit and go to work.

Most important, a patrol car should have a locking long gun rack. As referenced above, that piece of equipment will rarely be accessed, but when it is, there can be no fumbling.

For any officers blessed with the benefit of a take-home vehicle, take advantage of any modifications allowed by your department that will streamline your equipment and your work life.

Feng shui that thing!

Whether or not we really understand what feng shui is, we can use some variation of the principle to make a complicated existence just a little more Zen. The advantages of gear organization in a patrol officer’s mobile “office” are undeniable. Digging for report forms, a camera or a flashlight while en route to a call is not just stressful, it’s distracting and dangerous. Between the radio and basic observation, cops already have enough distractions while driving. Having equipment well organized and consistently located in the patrol vehicle allows you to focus on more important things.

Warren Wilson is a captain, training commander and rangemaster with an Oklahoma metropolitan police department. He is a former SWAT team leader, current firearms instructor and writer. He is certified as a De-Escalation Instructor and Force Science Analyst by the Force Science Institute. Warren has over 3,100 hours of documented training including multiple instructor certifications on firearms, active shooter and OC. He has been a full-time law enforcement officer since 1996.