Around 7 p.m. a couple of weeks ago, a WREG reporter saw something that stopped her in her tracks, and she's not the only person who has seen something like it.
The patrol car was parked and left running on Main Street near the Orpheum with its window wide open, a laptop powered on inside and with no officer in sight.
“I guess I’m so accustomed to seeing it that I don’t think about it anymore," said Felicia Peay, who lives downtown. “You see it all the time. They run into Starbucks, they leave the car running. Yes. You see it all the time."
The patrol cars have valuable equipment that could be stolen.
“It’s open," Peay said. "Anybody can go in there and get it, our information. That computer is live.”
Brian Farmer, who was visiting downtown, said that puts people in the area in extreme danger.
“It could be weapons or anything, that laptop, idle car running, that’s a danger right there," he said. "It’s open for a lot of potential risk.”
WREG uncovered MPD's policy for vehicles.
It says, “Unattended police vehicles shall be locked and secured to reduce the possibility of vandalism or theft of property.”
It also says officers should “turn off all accessories, and then shut off the ignition when a vehicle is to be parked for more than three minutes.”
But for Peay, even that policy doesn't seem very safe.
“A thief can steal a car in less than three minutes," Peay said. "I wouldn’t leave my car unlocked for three minutes, so I think the police officer definitely, I don’t care what he’s doing an emergency, there’s absolutely no reason.”
WREG spotted several more MPD cars parked downtown Friday. One had a back window open. Most of the others were turned off and locked.
In the case of the car left by the Orpheum, the WREG reporter eventually did spot an officer across the street, but it's unclear if it was her car.
We contacted MPD for an explanation but never heard back.
Officers can also disregard that patrol car policy if there are "safety or tactical considerations."