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Ergonomics and Poor Upfitting

Written by Ed Sanow

I don’t want to share my headroom with an in-car camera or radar antenna. I don’t want to share my elbow room with a radio mic or a vertical rack-mounted rifle. I don’t want to share my knee room with a rechargeable flashlight. I don’t want to share my legroom (seat track adjustment) with the prisoner in the rear seat just because the vehicle has a prisoner partition. This “put it wherever you can find space” practice is not a good ergonomic solution. Instead, that approach is poor and thoughtless upfitting.

I understand that police cars are getting smaller. I understand that the full-duty gunbelt will be a bit of a squeeze between the door panel and the center console. On the other hand, I don’t want the rest of my office to be so tight that the patrol supervisor has to hand me the steering wheel through the open window for me to install after I get in, NASCAR-style.

How about when the in-car camera housing interfered with the inside rearview mirror so much that the mirror could not be adjusted to see out the rear? How about when the headliner-mounted internal lightbar prevented the inside rearview mirror from being adjusted at all?

Frankly, I don’t want my back or shoulder to hurt after typing reports on the awkwardly mounted laptop. And, I want the police gear I use the most frequently to also be the most convenient to reach. Sometimes, I have a lot going on in my office. I don’t want to be a contortionist just to reach the radio mic. And, I want to be able to actually reach the HVAC controls.

With a bit of thought and planning, this is possible. But it will never happen unless it becomes a topic of discussion in your department, or with your upfitter. The comfort, health and safety problems of a poor upfit will not go away without effort.

This quest for an ergonomic office will soon become absolutely critical. The huge Ford CVPI is going away after August 2011, about a year and a half from now. All of the announced or planned police sedans will have a smaller driver’s compartment. We need to plan now for much smarter upfitting. The emergency and communications gear is getting smaller, but we are installing more of it.

Some departments are taking this ergonomics issue seriously, experimenting, for example, with headliner-mounted radio mics, airliner-style, plus mounting radar antennas on the lightbar. Also, my favorite, removing the retail radio and mounting the laptop display on the instrument panel with an under-seat laptop and a swing-out keypad. And large, integrated touchscreens are on the horizon. Intelligent, officer-friendly upfitting is possible!

Published in Law and Order, Nov 2009

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ErgonomicsFord CVPI (Crown Victoria Police Interceptor)Upfitting
 

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