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A police bus is a vehicle used by law enforcement for a variety of reasons. Police buses can be armored vehicles reinforced for safety and protection, as well as ordinary buses. Many buses are somewhere in between, with some fitted equipment and custom protection added for various uses. They are often, though not always, marked as police vehicles.
Seated police buses are usually used for officer transport. A considerable number of officers may be needed on a specific scene if there is a riot, protest, strike, or other potentially violent situation occurring. Sometimes a police bus is even used to send officers to control a crowd at a sporting event, concert, or other large gathering of people.
Law enforcement may use a police bus to temporarily hold detainees. Particularly at large events, people who have either committed a crime, or simply engaged in disorderly conduct may find themselves detained and processed in a police bus. They are then held in the bus itself until a more appropriate vehicle, such as a police squad car, can arrive to transport them to a holding facility.
Prisoners can also be transported via police bus. In some areas, the police force has a responsibility to transfer prisoners from one secure holding facility, such as a courthouse, to another. They may even have an obligation to transfer convicted criminals to a federal prison or from one jurisdiction to another. In this case, the vehicle may be outfitted with features such as bulletproof glass, extra seating for the officers guarding the prisoners, bars or wire mesh covering the windows, and segregated compartments for prisoners. A court service, correctional service, or appointed state agency employee may operate the vehicle in this case.
Sometimes a police bus is used to transport high-risk criminals. In this case, the vehicle is often provided with additional features. Some of these could include additional radio communications transmitters, restraints, global positioning units, supplemental weapons and emergency equipment.
There are many other, more specific, purposes for a police bus as well. A bus manufacturer may be asked to convert an average bus to be used as a police incident control room. Mobile command posts have also been created out of police buses. In such situations, the bus may be used as an operation center for air, land, and sea proceedings. The police force may also use retired buses for public service events, such as awareness campaigns, informational displays, or even mobile recruitment exhibits.
I was at a large protest a few years ago. We were protesting the Iraq War at one of the large municipal building in town. It was a peaceful protest but there were a lot of people and a lot of energy.
We were not disrupting anything but before long a big black bus pulled up and police officers in riot gear began to stream off the bus. They formed a line to one side of us. A spokesman for the police spoke to someone in our crew and the protest broke up without there being any arrests or violence. But the intimidation factor was huge. Imagine seeing a whole school bus filled with cops ready for action.
I have been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans a few times and there are always at least a half dozen police buses lined up outside of Bourbon Street ready to haul in all the wild drunks.
Luckily I have never had to take a ride in one myself but my buddy did once. He had too much to drink, started doing things that will get you in trouble even on a place like Bourbon Street and ended up spending a night in jail.