A series of photos with a disturbing caption have been circulating on social media: Two Chevrolet cop cars are parked at the scene of a crime with their hoods up and the caption claims this is “to block the dash cameras from filming.” But the photo is miscaptioned. The officers in question were simply using their police cars‘ electronics and had opened the hoods to prevent the vehicles from overheating on a 90+ degree day.
Images of cop cars with popped hoods went viral
Back in September 2016, images of police cars with their hoods up went viral on both Facebook and Twitter. The first picture shows a Chevrolet Caprice police cruiser parked on a four-lane with its hood up. The second picture shows a police sedan and a Chevy Tahoe parked down a side street, also with their hoods up. All of the cars belong to the Danville Virginia Police Department.
On Twitter, Shaun King claimed, “Police in Danville, Virginia are putting the hoods of their cars up when they pull people over to block the dash cameras from filming them.”
On Facebook, Shakeva Frazier had a bit more to say about the photos. She wrote, “THE DANVILLE VA POLICE DEPT. HAS PERMISSION TO LIFT THEIR HOODS, WHICH COVERS UP THE CAMERA VIEW, DURING A STOP OR WHATEVER.” She concluded, “Injustices has been happening in this city for so many years, but given what we are seeing nationwide- WE NEED THOSE CAMERAS TO BE ON AND HAVE CLEAR VIEW AT ALL TIMES!!!ESPECIALLY IN DANVILLE VA!”
These posts were re-posted on social media many times. Often, people shared them under the pretense of warning motorists about this police practice. But the experts at Snopes investigated the story of blocking dashcams and concluded it is false.
The Danville police explained they were keeping their cruisers cool
The images shared on social media were not taken by either Shaun King or Shakeva Frazier. The photos first appeared in the Danville Register & Bee on August 24th, 2016. They show cruisers that belong to police officers who spent several hours combing the area for spent shell casings. The department had responded to reports of a suspect shooting at a parked car and fleeing and was conducting an extended investigation.
The officers had left the lights running on at least one of the cruisers depicted, for traffic control purposes, while investigating the shooting. One critical aspect of the incident is that no civilians were present and thus there were no interactions to record.
Snopes reached out to the police department to ask about the incident. The Danville Police Department first pointed out that its officers all had Body Worn Cameras. It added that it has no policy permitting officers to deliberately obstruct vehicle dash cams. It revealed that officers do open the hoods if their car is idling, with emergency lights running, for an extended period of time, on a hot day. In the past, leaving the hood closed has caused “electrical parts” to “melt.”
Snopes even fact-checked that during the August week when the pictures were taken, high temperatures in Danville ranged from the mid-80s to the 90s.
Do police need to pop a cruiser’s hood when the car is idling?
Some critics on social media claimed police officers in Virginia left their cruisers’ hoods up to block their dashcams. But the police department pointed out that a “continual heating issue” caused the cars to “melt” electrical components in the summer heat.
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When Shakeva Frazier posted a picture of patrol cars with their hoods up on Facebook she claimed, “I was over by the police precinct yesterday in Green Street park and a police car was on for over 30 minutes with no one in it. Seemed like overheating was definitely not an issue then.” But the Danville Virginia police department disagreed.
The police department stated, “The amount of electronic equipment required in a Patrol vehicle causes a substantial amount of heat to build in the engine compartment.” When the viral pictures were taken, the Danville police were using their patrol cars’ lights for traffic control for several hours. The department added, “The hoods aren’t opened unless the car is expected to idle with the emergency lights running for an extended period of time.”
The Danville Police Department concluded its statement, “May I suggest contacting Chevrolet directly and demanding a remedy and retrofitting of the correction at their expense.”