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Old 05-14-2019, 02:40 PM
Bijou Drains is offline
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Cops sitting in cars in empty parking lots?


I live in an upper middle class suburb with very little crime . Maybe 1 murder a year and the vast majority of "crime" is speeding tickets.

I live right near a church and their parking lot is empty except on Sunday and sometimes Wed. I often see cops sitting in their cars in that empty church lot. Lately the cops have been there almost every day. They don't stay for just a few minutes , they stay for 30 minutes. What are they doing sitting there instead of patroling? Pretty sure they all have laptops now with internet access so that makes me wonder what they might be checking out.
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Old 05-14-2019, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
I live in an upper middle class suburb with very little crime . Maybe 1 murder a year and the vast majority of "crime" is speeding tickets.

I live right near a church and their parking lot is empty except on Sunday and sometimes Wed. I often see cops sitting in their cars in that empty church lot. Lately the cops have been there almost every day. They don't stay for just a few minutes , they stay for 30 minutes. What are they doing sitting there instead of patroling? Pretty sure they all have laptops now with internet access so that makes me wonder what they might be checking out.
With our County Cops, they loiter somewhere just to do the needed paper work that comes with every job.
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Old 05-14-2019, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
I live in an upper middle class suburb with very little crime . Maybe 1 murder a year and the vast majority of "crime" is speeding tickets.

I live right near a church and their parking lot is empty except on Sunday and sometimes Wed. I often see cops sitting in their cars in that empty church lot. Lately the cops have been there almost every day. They don't stay for just a few minutes , they stay for 30 minutes. What are they doing sitting there instead of patroling? Pretty sure they all have laptops now with internet access so that makes me wonder what they might be checking out.
Even if they didn't have laptops with internet access, they still have [personal] smart phones with internet access.

I'd guess they have something to do that they can't do while driving. Calling/texting someone, writing a report, updating something etc.

Regardless of what they're doing, they're probably trying to maintain a presence in the area while they're doing it. I know in my parking lot cops will often show up and sit near the edge of the lot, near the street. They look like a speed trap, but they're clocking anyone and I don't mind, the more they're there, the less likely my place is to get robbed.
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Old 05-14-2019, 02:50 PM
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I really don't think the police should be using private property to set up speed traps. They can pull onto the shoulder of a road to do that or come up from behind traffic. There is no need for that in my estimation.
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Old 05-14-2019, 02:53 PM
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I really don't think the police should be using private property to set up speed traps. They can pull onto the shoulder of a road to do that or come up from behind traffic. There is no need for that in my estimation.
Why not? It seems like a better idea for them to be off the road instead of in traffic. Furthermore, they're more visible when you approaching them if you see the side of their vehicle instead of the back of it. They might hand out less tickets, but it also means people are driving slower.
And, as I mentioned in my other post, I don't mind it at all when they're on my property. It keeps the place safer and I have a good repport with most of them.

However, if I asked them not to do that, I assume they'd stop.

Last edited by Joey P; 05-14-2019 at 02:54 PM.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:02 PM
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People do tend to drive more carefully when they see a cop car.

Back a few years ago, they were doing work on a main road in my home town. In order to do the work, they had to put up a stop sign. It wasn't a place where you'd expect one -- it was on a clear stretch of road. It was likely people would just drive through it, almost without realizing it was there.

The cops parked a police car just before the stop sign. No one in it, but everyone saw it and stopped at the sign.

So just seeing a car can help prevent illegal behavior.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:13 PM
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the parking lot section they park in is not close to a road , so it's not a speed trap. I can't imagine they have much paperwork other than the tickets which they fill out when they catch you.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:17 PM
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the parking lot section they park in is not close to a road , so it's not a speed trap. I can't imagine they have much paperwork other than the tickets which they fill out when they catch you.
They're doing a lot more than just catching people speeding. If I call the police because there's a car in my parking lot that's making me nervous and it's gone by the time they get here...they have to write a report. If you hear a noise in your backyard and call them and it turns out to be a raccoon in your garbage cans, they have to write a report. Virtually every interaction they have with civilians as part of investigating something or responding to a call gets a report (or documented in another report).
Check out your local PD's website or facebook page and see how many things are in their police blotter every day.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:28 PM
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Maybe they're just taking a break. Or the church is central to their patrol area. Better to be centrally 15 minutes away than 30 minutes away if they're at the extreme of their patrol area.

Also, any documentation they can do on the road, means that much less time they have to spend at the station once their active patrol ends. Last year I had an accident with a moped. The patrol cars came and one left after about 15 minutes, but the other officer stayed until I left the area, so he was there a good hour or so.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:32 PM
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I must say I am not too impressed with police reports . I was in a car wreck about 10 years ago and the report had 6 major factual errors in it. The worst error was they put down that I drove a Honda Pilot when I was driving a 2 door Honda Civic. The report was a total pile of garbage. BTW I was not at fault in the accident .
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:40 PM
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Regardless of what they're doing, they're probably trying to maintain a presence in the area while they're doing it.
I don't know about the OP, but for me, this is the answer.

I live in a decidedly "blue collar" neighborhood and there are a few spots in the vicinity where there is almost always a patrol car or two, 24/7, just sitting. The bowling alley parking lot, in front of that bakery, over by the Parks & Planning Commission building. They're not speed traps, they're not really even paying attention to traffic. As far as I've ever been able to tell, they are there just to be there. They post up in a highly visible spot, and their only real agenda is just being seen.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:47 PM
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I must say I am not too impressed with police reports . I was in a car wreck about 10 years ago and the report had 6 major factual errors in it. The worst error was they put down that I drove a Honda Pilot when I was driving a 2 door Honda Civic. The report was a total pile of garbage. BTW I was not at fault in the accident .
But...that doesn't mean it's not what they're doing.

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I don't know about the OP, but for me, this is the answer.

I live in a decidedly "blue collar" neighborhood and there are a few spots in the vicinity where there is almost always a patrol car or two, 24/7, just sitting. The bowling alley parking lot, in front of that bakery, over by the Parks & Planning Commission building. They're not speed traps, they're not really even paying attention to traffic. As far as I've ever been able to tell, they are there just to be there. They post up in a highly visible spot, and their only real agenda is just being seen.
In my city, about 10 years ago, the chief changed (made?) a policy saying that they can't come back to the station just to go to the bathroom*. The idea was that if they have to stop in at restaurants and stores and other [open to the] public places it helps them be seen in public, the local employees get to know them better and they get to know all the places better and, on top of all that, it helps maintain a presence.


*using the bathroom while you're there is fine, just not coming back for that reason.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:58 PM
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Around here, some 24-hour stores have a big sign in the window that reads, "Police Substation." That means the manager lets the cops use his office to catch up on paperwork, make phone calls, stretch out when they're on their breaks, etc. The fact that a big sign in the front window may deter a potential robber and costs literally nothing is strictly a coincidence.

Maybe the OP's town doesn't have such an arrangement, or maybe the parking lot is home to a liquor store or pharmacy that needs a little extra deterrence, or maybe it's a bowling alley where there's so much trouble some nights it's just easier to have a cop parked there all night and let everyone else do the patrolling.

True story. In the sleepy little suburb where I grew up, no one understood why there was a cop parked in front of one house every night, 365 days a year. No one understood until they learned that was the home of a local mob boss, and the police just wanted my little suburb not to have to go to the mattresses.
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Old 05-14-2019, 04:05 PM
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+1 to those who posted being seen and presence

If they park in an inconspicuous spot, they're accused of setting up a speed trap, trying to entrap someone or trying to hide.
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Old 05-14-2019, 04:07 PM
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Around here, some 24-hour stores have a big sign in the window that reads, "Police Substation." That means the manager lets the cops use his office to catch up on paperwork, make phone calls, stretch out when they're on their breaks, etc. The fact that a big sign in the front window may deter a potential robber and costs literally nothing is strictly a coincidence.

Maybe the OP's town doesn't have such an arrangement, or maybe the parking lot is home to a liquor store or pharmacy that needs a little extra deterrence, or maybe it's a bowling alley where there's so much trouble some nights it's just easier to have a cop parked there all night and let everyone else do the patrolling.

True story. In the sleepy little suburb where I grew up, no one understood why there was a cop parked in front of one house every night, 365 days a year. No one understood until they learned that was the home of a local mob boss, and the police just wanted my little suburb not to have to go to the mattresses.
My first post says the parking lot is for a church. But I guess they could sell booze out the back door.
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Old 05-14-2019, 04:25 PM
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All that has been said but also, maybe he’s eating? Or maybe he’s already put 50 miles on the car that day and had to take a break from driving around so he doesn’t drive into a tree?

When I write reports I like to tuck myself away as best I can so I’m not bothered by anyone and I can get my work done. We had a former captain that made an edict that whenever we wrote a report or stopped for any reason we had to be visible to the public so they can bother us while we are trying to get our work done. Maybe their captain is as dumb as our old captain.
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Old 05-14-2019, 04:35 PM
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Near where I live there is a McDonald's right beside a busy roundabout. A couple of years ago I noticed that there was often an ambulance parked in their car park. I wasn't the only one who noticed and there was soon a letter in the paper about NHS Ambulance crews skiving off.

They stopped parking there after that and now park in a nearby parking area, out of sight behind an office.

The reason they were there is because ambulances have response targets to maintain and by stationing a crew there, they were able to cover the area more speedily. McD's also have facilities that they can use.
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:11 PM
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The cops park behind our house in the church parking lot for quite a while, radio blaring, engine running. They don't park where they can be seen from the streets. Who knows what they're doing. Paperwork, groupie BJs, whatever.

It's Mesa, so I should be grateful they don't shoot me.
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:16 PM
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Maybe they're just taking a break.
...I mean if they are staying for exactly 30 minutes each time, then that sounds like a lunch break. Knock on the window and ask
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Old 05-14-2019, 08:04 PM
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My first post says the parking lot is for a church. But I guess they could sell booze out the back door.
And, as my post suggests, maybe the minister is a mob boss.
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:09 PM
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I really don't think the police should be using private property to set up speed traps. They can pull onto the shoulder of a road to do that or come up from behind traffic. There is no need for that in my estimation.
As long as the private property is generally open to the public, like a church or a store lot, it's perfectly acceptable for a patrolman to park there.

I routinely park in a plaza lot and use the MDT to do reports, read BOLO updates, eat, take a rest, etc..
There are a zillion legitimate reasons that officer could be parked in that lot.

One of the things I don't do is use the data terminal to surf the web. it's use is monitored and that is a big no-no!
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:29 PM
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Eating, giving a breathalyzer test, adjusting their Billy club, wasting taxpayer money, the list is infinite.
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:35 PM
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...I mean if they are staying for exactly 30 minutes each time, then that sounds like a lunch break. Knock on the window and ask
Yeah, that is a great way to get shot.
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Old 05-14-2019, 11:55 PM
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My first post says the parking lot is for a church. But I guess they could sell booze out the back door.
My church actually gives away alcohol toward the end of the service.
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:32 AM
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The town I live near has two cops and three cars. They created a speed trap (painted lines on the road) and keep the spare car, empty, there. Outsiders driving through town hit their brakes, while the locals just fly through.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:15 AM
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My first post says the parking lot is for a church. But I guess they could sell booze out the back door.
Church have unsecured WiFi for the offices? Or maybe the LEO has the pw for private phone usage and doesn't chew up his data plan.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:34 AM
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Churches are actually fairly high on the list of opportune targets for vandalism, up to and including arson. I find it doubtful that the pastor, and the church elders, or board are unaware of the frequent presence of the police in their parking lot. Given that probability, if it was something they found objectionable, they could ask the police to leave. If they don't mind, why do you?

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Old 05-15-2019, 08:35 AM
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Yeah, that is a great way to get shot.
I don't believe you would get shot, but you might earn a police escort to and from work.
  #29  
Old 05-15-2019, 08:36 AM
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The church might have asked them to be there to catch people using the parking lot for illegal activities, or in case something happens at the service where they need the police.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:45 AM
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With our County Cops, they loiter somewhere just to do the needed paper work that comes with every job.
Pretty much this. The church near us allows the cops to use a room in their basement to do paperwork.
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:02 AM
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Surely they are parking there to annoy the OP?
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:09 AM
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My ex-wife's stepfather got lots of speeding tickets and hated the cops who wrote them. He owned a big auto-parts store and one day a cop set up in his parking lot to observe traffic. He had the lot posted (customer use only, all others will be towed) so he called the police and reported a car illegally parked on his property.

It was probably the happiest day of his life.
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:19 AM
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My ex-wife's stepfather got lots of speeding tickets and hated the cops who wrote them. He owned a big auto-parts store and one day a cop set up in his parking lot to observe traffic. He had the lot posted (customer use only, all others will be towed) so he called the police and reported a car illegally parked on his property.

It was probably the happiest day of his life.
My dad did something similar a few times. There was a cop that would routinely set up on an on ramp in a place that was difficult for people getting on the freeway to see him. There were plenty of (and I saw them first hand) times where people would turn onto the on ramp and find themselves having to swerve around him. I don't know if he didn't see it or didn't care.
It got to the point that when my dad would see him there he'd call the (non-emergency) police and let them know there's broken down/parked car on the freeway on ramp, in the way of traffic, which it was.

I'm surprised no one ever rear ended the cop. It didn't help that he was in an unmarked, dark colored car.
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:22 AM
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Yeah, don't put down just showing the flag.

I know in DC in the 90s - when I was reporting there - cops would occasionally choose to do paperwork or whatever at night in areas where both drugs and prostitution was known to occur just to force such things elsewhere. Every week or so there'd be a new place and they'd quietly put pressure on the users/girls/johns by showing up and just being around.
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:23 AM
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There are also police cars out there now with license plate reading cameras that just sit on the side of the road for long periods of time, cycling plates through their laptop system until *BINGO* warrant pops up on the blue Chrysler and they're immediately pulled over and arrested.
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:26 AM
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They're probably killing time lurking on the SDMB.
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:34 AM
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They've probably moved because you revealed that.
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:47 AM
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One of my criteria for a "paperwork spot" was to park in an area where I can see all approaches to my car. A large, empty parking lot, especially a lit one, is perfect for that.
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Old 05-15-2019, 10:02 AM
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IIRC from my younger days growing up, dark, isolated parking lots are often attractive nuisances for teenagers and young adults with nothing to do. Particularly in small towns. So they end up hanging out in some supermarket or strip mall parking lot, often drinking or doing drugs. Sometimes there might be fights if other groups of kids from a different town or social circle show up. So sitting there in your patrol car is a good way to discourage this. They don't even have to be in the same lot every night. Just knowing "the cops sometimes hang out there" is usually enough of a deterrent.
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Old 05-15-2019, 11:25 AM
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And, as my post suggests, maybe the minister is a mob boss.
Or maybe the minister is a police supporter. Or the church has been broken into. Many places of business actually like the police coming around because they are anti-crime.
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Old 05-15-2019, 11:29 AM
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There was a house so notorious in my hometown that the cops would watch it, and pulled over any car leaving their, often finding illegal drugs in it. I suspect there may be such a house on the same block as the church.
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:39 PM
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the church is in an area where houses are $400k and up. Not likely to be an area with drug dealers. The area is about 50% Indians who work tech jobs.

Last edited by Bijou Drains; 05-15-2019 at 12:40 PM.
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:40 PM
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In my area, police will park in areas with good, free wifi to watch netflix and play on facebook, bypassing the way the laptops normally connect to the police servers (so it's not monitored)

I was an officer way back when laptops started to be installed in police cars, and I told the Chief allowing internet access was going to cause problems. Now you can practically drive by a parked police car in a "speed trap", guzzling a half gallon liquor bottle and flipping the cop the middle finger, and he/she won't even glance up from their screen as you drive by.
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:49 PM
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In my area, police will park in areas with good, free wifi to watch netflix and play on facebook, bypassing the way the laptops normally connect to the police servers (so it's not monitored)

I was an officer way back when laptops started to be installed in police cars, and I told the Chief allowing internet access was going to cause problems. Now you can practically drive by a parked police car in a "speed trap", guzzling a half gallon liquor bottle and flipping the cop the middle finger, and he/she won't even glance up from their screen as you drive by.
Don't a lot of departments have cameras that transmit to the computer screen by now? I believe our local police use these for seat belt checks in my area. They can zoom in and see much better that way.

Last edited by Si Amigo; 05-15-2019 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:30 PM
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the parking lot section they park in is not close to a road , so it's not a speed trap. I can't imagine they have much paperwork other than the tickets which they fill out when they catch you.


You might be surprised how much paperwork can be generated on routine calls for service. Don't be so suspicious. Maybe go over and strike up a conversation. You might be surprised. Just cough and make noise as you approach so as not to startle them.
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Old 05-15-2019, 04:41 PM
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Cops sitting in cars in empty parking lots

I can't help but read that and think "worst Jerry Seinfeld talk show idea ever."
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:12 PM
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the church is in an area where houses are $400k and up. Not likely to be an area with drug dealers.
Do you really believe this? Bless your heart!
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:29 PM
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Forgot to include the obligatory link. This one happens to be the from Stephen Colbert's 5/14 interview with Tony Dokoupil, the new guy from CBS This Morning.

It's just after the second commercial break, starting 22:00 in, and you'll have to sit through a buttload of commercials before it comes up, but trust me, it's worth watching!
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Old 05-16-2019, 01:44 AM
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My church actually gives away alcohol toward the end of the service.
If I follow you, that’s not alcohol—it’s blood.
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Old 05-16-2019, 03:27 AM
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There's a closed up movie theater that has a giant empty parking lot and I constantly see half a dozen city cop cars parked there with cops inside in the early morning. I'm curious if that's where they "rally" before going out on patrol since it's right next to the city limits line.
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