Messes happen — and someone has to be there to clean it up.
Two local police departments have different ways to handle situations where someone has defecated, urinated or vomited in the back seat of a patrol vehicle.
The Denton and Corinth police departments have 60 and 16 marked vehicles, respectively. Just like any other car, they need maintenance, and repairs can hit unexpectedly. People do make messes in the back seat — accidentally and intentionally — which also require a cleanup, but these cleanups aren’t necessarily allotted in either department’s vehicle maintenance budget.
“I was checking in with our folks and we can’t remember in recent years of having a really bad mess like someone’s vomited or bled a lot,” Corinth Police Chief Jerry Garner said. “We try to [weed] out if they’re already sick and try not to haul them in the first place and try to have EMS do that.”
With minor messes, Garner said Corinth police will glove up and clean the car themselves.
Denton police spokesperson Allison Beckwith said it’s infrequent for arrested people to defecate or urinate in a police car, but it does happen.
“Rarely, it is a vocalized, intentional act in response to being arrested,” she said. “On other occasions, this atypical response to an arrest can be due to nervousness or medical reasons.”
Those medical reasons can include someone introducing intoxicants or diuretics such as alcohol into their system.
The Denton police officers assigned to the messy vehicle are the ones responsible for cleanup, sometimes assisted by detention officers. Beckwith said if there’s a big mess in a police car, those vehicles are immediately and thoroughly sanitized once the officers arrive at the jail.
Disinfectants and other cleaning supplies are available at the jail’s sally port, a large garage that leads to the jail. The Police Department also has an Aeroclave machine. Aeroclave is a producer of large-scale decontamination products for fire departments, law enforcement, the military and aircraft services.
“Although the Denton Fire Department generously made their Aeroclave available for use by Denton PD, the Police Department purchased their own amidst the pandemic as well,” Beckwith said.
It’s also come in handy during the pandemic as the department has used it to sanitize vehicles transporting someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The department purchased the $14,000 machine with a COVID-19 grant.
Garner said he wouldn’t expect his officers to clean up bigger messes themselves, nor would they take the car out to a local car wash.
“If you have a real mess like someone’s defecated, urinated or whatever back there, we’ll deadline the car and hire a professional cleaner to do that,” Garner said. “Some of the same optics exist if you’ve had someone die in a house or commit suicide … They’ll come out and clean for you.”