Originally published July 15, 2011 on the blog at ElectMyAss.com:
Let me first say I agree with New Albany Police Chief Todd Bailey's plan to revamp the take home car policy for officers. The new policy would forbid officers who live outside the Floyd County limits from driving their patrol cars home at the end of their shift. This is a sensible policy shift by Bailey, no question about it.
One of the constant arguments I have heard over the years about allowing police officers to take cars home with them is that it helps promote neighborhood safety. I'm not arguing the merits of the "for" argument, but I would like an explanation of how exactly a New Albany police car sitting in Charlestown, Corydon, or beyond is supposed to promote neighborhood safety here in New Albany. You know, where the police cars are most of the time. Not to mention, my first thought every time this argument even starts is "Neighborhood safety? That's just silly. When's the last time you saw a cop live in a bad neighborhood?"
Naturally, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99 has a problem with this, and have filed a grievance, claiming the take home cars are a contractually protected right. While this matter could be heard by the Board of Public Works and Safety, City Attorney Shane Gibson said both sides will most likely argue before an arbitrator, with the city's stance being that it's an administration decision, therefore it's Bailey's call.
The bottom line is the city is going to have to start making both tough and rational decisions as a budget shortfall exists this year ($3 million), as well as questions regarding the impact of public safety budgeting for 2012. With the police and fire unions' annual one percent longevity raises making up a good portion of a $400,000 increase in the general fund budget, money need to be found somewhere, and why not start by keeping the city's police cars right here- in the city.
The results would be immediate, considering the NAPD has already cruised through $114,000 of it's 2011 fuel budget of $150,000. If you can't see that bringing the out-of-pocket police cars back into the city would tip the scales back in both the department and the city's favor, then you either need to wipe the crap out of your eyes or change the batteries in your calculator. City Councilmen John Gonder and Dan Coffey would like to see the policy narrowed further, only allowing take home cars to officers that live within the city limits. Can't rightly say I disagree with that, either, but one step at a time, I suppose...
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