Huron touts cruiser take-home policy as money saver

Huron officials remain committed to a policy they say provides substantial savings to the police department's budget, while also improving safety.
Andy Ouriel
Nov 10, 2012

The city's take-home policy for police cruisers allows the department's 13 full-time officers to maintain full possession of the vehicles at all times.  

A full-time officer in Huron typically drives a cruiser until it's no longer serviceable. Among its many touted benefits, the policy cuts down on mileage.

A Huron police officer puts about 1,500 miles a month on a cruiser, or 18,000 miles a year. Conversely, the city's studies show that if the 13 full-time officers shared four cars, they'd likely put 50,000 miles on a cruiser each year, with a constant need for repairs.

"You take a lot better care of it when it's your own," Huron police Officer James Bowens said. "When I was given a 1996 cruiser in 1997, I had that car for six or seven years. When it went out of rotation, I was kicking and screaming. I didn't want them to have it because I knew how to drive that car."

Also, if city officials required officers to share cruisers, the police department would have to rotate new vehicles into the fleet more frequently.

The officers must pay repair costs on their own, if they're found responsible for any damages to the vehicle.

Since 2009, the city has substantially reduced overtime spending as a result of this policy. Compared to the 2009 numbers, Huron's 2013 budget shows a 73 percent reduction in overtime costs, roughly a savings of about $45,000 a year.

"The program is an effective deterrent of crime-related activity, and improves safety and quality of life," Huron city manager Andy White said.

A parked cruiser can ward off potential criminals eying a neighborhood, and the vehicle also deters speeders.

"My neighbors love it," Chief Robert Lippert said. "They have a feeling of security because they think a bad guy who sees a (police) car will think twice about doing anything bad."

The Erie County Sheriff's Office employs a similar program. Sandusky and Perkins police departments shy away from this policy.
 

Comments

jas

Slice it, dice it, and spin it any way you want, the City of Huron can reduce the cost of vehicles by not allowing them to be taken home. The study is skewed because it assumes that the vehicles not taken home are going to be used every shift. Departments that don't allow officers to take their vehicles home like a personal car do not reduce their fleet by 2/3 and do not use all their vehicles every shift but still save money. Enhancing public safety in the City of Huron is not increased by taking vehicles home if the officer doesn't live in Huron. State law prohibits cities from requiring officers to live in the city where they work. If an officer lives in Vermillion, his police cruiser sitting in his driveway doesn't help deter crime in Huron.

Looking at what the Chief provided, it would make no sense and clearly would be more costly to reduce the vehicle fleet from 13 to 4. However, if the fleet is reduced from 13 to 8 with the vehicles being used every other shift instead of every shift, a cost savings should be obtainable. Repairs could be made on vehicles during the shift a particular vehicle is not being used. It makes no sense to believe that the additional repair costs would exceed the cost of five vehicles.

Additionally, there is no connection shown between reducing overtime and the vehicle "take home" policy. At least nothing is mentioned in the article showing a cause/effect relationship between less overtime and this policy. I suspect adding additional officers since 2009 is the real reason for less overtime. Less overtime does not necessarily mean that money is being saved if an additional officer is hired to make up for the reduction in overtime.

The Chief is "cherry picking" his statistics. A full study and comparison with a similarly sized city who doesn't use the antiquated policy of taking vehicles home needs to be done to get an honest and fair analysis of the policy.

buford

Wow, jas has it all figured out o_O I'm thinking your opinion is the only thing skewed. This topic has been challenged , studied whatever you want to call it time and time again. The policy proves to be effective everytime. Now go cry about something else and be thankful Officers won't be responding in junky cruisers in your time of need.

Cowboy

I agree jas. Overtime pay has nothing to do with this. Nice spin Chief, ha ha... We almost fell for that one. Have the officer responsible for the car each shift, they should treat it the same. Less cars would be needed, there is a huge savings unless the city is getting these cars for free.

perspective

So you would rather the city pay for (4) new cars every two years (cruiser and equipment costs totaling around 30,000-35,000 for 1) than keep a fleet of cars that will last for 6-8 years with fewer repairs? how does that make sense? enlighten me... I have had experience with both and the take home car program works for a department the size of Huron.

jas

Just another police officer who wants to keep his taxpayer provided perk.

sanduskysteve

I too am curious how you figure that the cars would last longer by driving them more.... Something funny with the thinking of jas and cowboy.

jas

I never said anything about the cars lasting longer by driving them more. It would certainly be funny if I had actually said that.

Gardenman

I am like others you can spin this anyway you want. I remember a few years ago former police chief Glovinsky even did a PowerPoint and had a fancy name he called it the "Indianapolis Plan." Bottom line they are going to do whatever they want unless City Council orders a change to policy. Then again if the state reduces the dollars to cities, income taxes drop or other revenue if that happens you will see an immediate change in the number of police cars and whether they are driven home.

My question would be.....for income tax purposes these police cars taken home would seem to run the criteria of a "company car." I wonder how the IRS looks at this when these officers file their income tax with Uncle Sam. They certainly have no travel costs to and from work and would seem to ba a company perk.

JFDoering

Anyone who has worked with public safety fleets and equipment knows there is a significant savings in assigning equipment to one officer. When something happens, there is no finger-pointing, nor the infamous "I don't know anything about that." Officers with their own car take better care of that car, since it is their office. The seats, the buttons, the computer, the equipment in the trunk, etc, are all arranged the way that works best for that person.

There is a huge difference in pride. Actually, a few extra dollars in dressing up a cruiser pays dividends in the long run. For example, it costs more to purchase Chevrolet Tahoe Police Package, but that vehicle has a lower operating cost over the life of the vehicle. It also has many ergonomic benefits for officers, as well as getting them up higher for better visibility and situational awareness. Local governments that think long-term like that are often considered an endangered species.

With the proverbial s**t hits the fan, the officers trained and familiar with the area can all respond and be ready to work as soon as they start their cruiser. The community benefits from that availability. Think it cannot happen in Erie County? We all know better than that.

Other police equipment has the same benefits from being issued to an individual officer. Portable radios have less repairs when not shared. Laptop computers see less "oopsies" (yes, I know that is not exactly a technical term). We do not ask them to share their guns (I hope).

The same mentality goes into other public safety equipment. Firefighters do not share their turnout gear. Progressive departments assign the facepiece for breathing apparatus (SCBAs) to a firefighter. Some fire departments have progressed to the point of issuing a portable radio to each firefighter, just as they do a pager. Higher initial cost, lower recurring costs.

Pay me now or pay me later. Huron has made the right choice.

jas

If taking police cruisers home actually saves money than the alternative, how come firefighters don't take firetrucks home with them? Neither makes any rational or fiscal sense. I agree that the Huron Police Department will do whatever they want no matter what the cost and City Council will do nothing about it. That's just they way it's always been and it looks like it will always be. The tail wags the dog.

luvblues2

Firetrucks don't drive around patrolling for fires, jas. False analogy.