published Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Most police officers opt not to pay to have take-home cars

  • photo
    Staff photo by Mark Gilliland Marked and unmarked police cars parked behind the police service center located on Amnicola Highway.

Three-quarters of the Chattanooga police officers with take-home cars decided Tuesday that they will park their patrol cars instead of paying the city for their commutes.

"I think that a lot of officers have chosen to turn in their cars out of protest," said Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield.

Some police leaders have said that not allowing police officers to take their patrol cars home -- or charging them for it -- not only will hurt department morale, it will hurt the department's ability to respond to crime.

International Brotherhood of Police Officers local chapter Vice President Tim Tomisek said the move is unlikely to save the city money and tells officers that the city doesn't care about them.

"There's a million reasons why take-home cars make sense," Tomisek said. "This just triples the bad morale that's already there."

During summer budget meetings, the City Council approved a budget that required the city to recoup some of the cost of the take-home car program.

An early proposal was to charge $50 every two weeks to employees who live within the city and use take-home cars and $75 for those who live outside city limits. But that plan met with serious opposition from police and other city employees.

The city now has decided that employees with take-home cars will pay 20 cents per mile if they live within city limits and 30 cents per mile if they live outside the city. The plan goes into effect with the first pay period of 2011.

Chattanooga's cost of take-home cars is more than $1.5 million and, if city employees pay for the use of the cars, the city finance department estimates recouping $580,000, Beeland said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 10 of the 28 fire department employees and all Public Works employees with take-home cars, fewer than 20, had decided to pay for their use. Among police officers, 260 of the 351 with take-home cars opted not to pay.

Phil Grubb, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers local, repeatedly has raised concerns over response times if police officers don't take home their patrol cars. He pointed to SWAT team members as a specific example.

"Instead of jumping in their car at home or leaving from the grocery store, they're going to have to drive their wife and kids home, then go to the station to gather their gear because they're always on call," he said.

With 351 police cars divided among three shifts, the city and police department must devise a plan for parking the city cars and officers' personal vehicles on city property.

Beeland said there is room in fenced lots elsewhere on city property to safely park cars that won't fit at the Amnicola Highway police headquarters.

"We have property all over the city that we can make available for parking," he said.

City administration and police leaders will look at other options, which may include patrol officers parking near the sectors where they work, he said.

Grubb said alternate parking plans must be developed because otherwise "it's going to cause gridlock at Amni-cola."

Both Grubb and Tomisek questioned the timing of the take-home pay policy implementation. Tomisek said beginning the program near the middle of the fiscal year -- which runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 -- fails to save the money city leaders promised.

Beeland said they decided to start the program in the middle of the fiscal year so employees with take-home cars would be able to plan ahead for the new fees and also to study the cost and decide on a fair rate to charge.

"I know that there are fewer and fewer municipalities offering this perk to their employees, and I can't see it continuing here without a change in the way it's funded, i.e., a tax increase," Beeland said.

Poll
Should police officers have to pay a fee to take patrol cars home?
  • yes 27%
  • no 73%

8190 total votes.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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Salsa said...

Littlefield will probably charge them for parking next.

December 29, 2010 at 12:21 a.m.
Allison12 said...

Date: December 29, 2010 To: Police Dept. From: Paul Page Subj: TN Park at TN Par Property

This notice will serve as phase III of taking police pay and benefits. Of course, the five newly created departments, including General Services, silly art pursuits, and the chosen with 6 figure salaries will remain unaffected.
Please be advised, a new TN Par parking lot at the beautiful Farmers Market toxic dump has been provided to park your personal cars. The fee to park at the TN Par parking lot is $5 per week. The City now has a use for the TN Par toxic dump purchased for $775,000 from our local Blanton bag man that has remained vacant since 2006. A win-win So, TN Park and pay!

December 29, 2010 at 1:27 a.m.
senyahc said...

Hey Chattanooga Police... You don't deserve to drive home in a car that you don't own or that belongs to the tax payers.

Quit crying. Get a real job, and get off welfare.

December 29, 2010 at 7:27 a.m.
bbowden said...

This is ridiculous. How is it a good idea to rip off the people who help keep our city safe? Sure it saves money, but there has to be another way.

December 29, 2010 at 8:23 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

If the police person is "on-call" 24/7 then a good case can be made for letting them keep the car according to the previous policy, if not, then driving the car home is a perk and should have been reported on income tax by the drivers, or they should pay mileage, including the cost of liability insurance off-hours. In a sense by imposing the fees they are reducing the pay if they are on call 24/7

December 29, 2010 at 8:48 a.m.

@senyahc:

Perhaps the police officers took your advice and got a "Real Job" as you stated....I don't think you deserve their protection as it is, so why don't you take yourself to another country who doesn't care about their citizens? Sounds like a great idea to me! I feel that Chattanooga does a good job in most aspects, some not so good, but no one is perfect. Well, unless you are senyahc :)

Have a blessed day!

December 29, 2010 at 9:25 a.m.
joecrash1 said...

It has been proven time and again take home cars are better maintained than fleet cars, SAVING TAXPAYER MONEY!! With fewer cars on the street at any given time and the absence of the cars parked in neighborhoods, crime will increase. I am truly sorry the recall for Littlebrain didnt work. AT THE NEXT ELECTION, VOTE AGAINST LITTLEFIELD!!!!!!!

December 29, 2010 at 9:26 a.m.
Dragnwon said...

I have an idea. How about an "Adopt a Police Officer" program. We can adopt one officer each and pay for him to use his police car off duty. Solves the City's problem and the officers problem. And it shows that we appreciate their work and dedication.

December 29, 2010 at 9:49 a.m.
Allison12 said...

@Dragnwon, U R smart, a solution. Our neighborhood association and watch, I believe, they would gladly contribute to keep the patrol car that parks a few streets over. There are actually two neighborhood watch groups in our area. I don't know how much it would cost a year, but we would do fund raisers to keep the police car presence in our neighborhood. These people running our city are absolute idiots, and their priorities do not match reality. I think the election is March 2013 for Mayor and Council, we have to make sending these people home our highest priority.

December 29, 2010 at 10:07 a.m.
harrystatel said...

Whose parked car in your neighbor's driveway does more to protect you?

The car marked "Police" or the car marked "Mayor?"

Harry Statel

December 29, 2010 at 10:19 a.m.
cartman said...

I would like to know HOW it cost the city more than 1.5 million dollars to let these officers drive them home? This is what needs to be explained. If this cost can't be reduced w/o parking the cars, we need to take the city check book and give it to my dog! By the way, HOW MUCH (tax payer) MONEY did we give to VW and Amazon?

December 29, 2010 at 10:23 a.m.
OldTimer1933 said...

I have the highest regard for law enforcement officers but there was a comment about 'protection'. I guess it might surprise a lot of people that police are NOT CONSTITUTIONALLY REQUIRED TO PROTECT US. As indicated by many federal court decisions " there is no Constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen". (Castle Rock V. Gonzales, South v. Maryland, Bowers v. DeVito, and others).

What is peculiar to me is that since government officials of 'the State' are not constitutionally required to protect us from the worst damage from murderers and madmen, where does 'the State' get the constitutional requirement to be a 'protective' nanny in other areas?

December 29, 2010 at 10:50 a.m.
BOOBOO99 said...

The extra cost, if any, for take-home vehicles is negligible. In fact, studies show over and over again that agencies with take-home vehicle policies actually extend the life of their fleet over the long term due to better maintenance and vehicle care and in many cases it is shorter distance for an employee to drive home at the end of his regular shift than to return a car to a central garage. Additionally, employees going to and from home at shift change are visible deterrents to crime, and enhance public safety ready to respond to emergencies right then. This happens very often and provides our city and counties a great service.

If there are times when a take-home policy does costs us a few more dollars in fuel, I know this cost is far outweighed by the savings to lives and property that results in having that officer readily available and prepared with life-saving equipment and resources. There are many areas of local government that can sustain funding cuts much more easily than public safety, which is already struggling to keep pace with explosive growth, a growing gang problem, and increasing homeland security responsibilities for local jurisdictions.

Based on my public safety experience, I would strongly encourage local political leaders to find a way to continue a vital take-home car program that saves lives and property without charging law enforcement personnel a fee for being available and ready to respond to help others and do a job most of us are not prepared or willing to do. A take-home car program is necessary for the proper implementation of a comprehensive All-Hazard Emergency Response Plan and is vital to saving lives and protecting property.

December 29, 2010 at 12:50 p.m.
midnitewatchman said...

It has come to this because of 7 years of budget mismanagements.

December 29, 2010 at 1:26 p.m.
nurseforjustice said...

The way I see it, most of our community is in favor of the police officers being able to continue taking home their vehicles as am I. With that being the case, it would behoove the mayor and council to make sure they have other jobs lined up after next election.

I know that some of the officers use the cars in extra jobs, but I believe it is necessary. (not much deterent if an officer is driving around in a Honda Civic.) (also if an officer is at a school zone directing traffic or anywhere for that matter, the blue lights make most folks slow down even before they get to the intersection.) Maybe if the cars are used in the extra jobs the officers are performing the company hiring the officers should pay for the use of the vehicle as well.

My point is that there are alternative ways to work around this and still allow them to take the cars home. We (the city) don't pay them enough as it is, IMHO.

December 29, 2010 at 1:27 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

It wasn't that long ago our local cheapskate tea baggers let these guys run out of ammo. What are we going to do next, bill them by the round? You need to buy your own nine volt batteries for the taser. Bring your own bottle of Tobasco for when you run out of OC.

Can we get back to doing something right for a change? Thanks.

December 29, 2010 at 2:41 p.m.
midnitewatchman said...

Phase 1: Current Agenda

Phase 2: Mayor Office knows the address of all its employees. Next is to push Annexation by making it an easier sell to those that live outside the city limits and recend Phase 1.

My guess?

December 29, 2010 at 3:07 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

Once again Mayor Littlefield and the City Council members prove themselves incompetent. The city can not even pay it's own bills properly, but at the same time they want to annex areas outside the city limits against those residents will. So if you cannot afford what you have, what makes you think you can afford more? Littlefield and his city council cronies trade safefy for more power. This town proves the reputation of the south for being backward and less intelligent.

December 29, 2010 at 4:38 p.m.
jayhay182 said...

Just when I thought the mayor and his elite couldn't get any worse they start this. Sounds like Littlefield should just go home and play SimCity on his computer if he wants to rule over people and control their way of life. But I bet the Sims in the game would have voted him out a long time ago. EPIC FAIL MAYOR!

December 29, 2010 at 4:58 p.m.
rockman12 said...

Everyone else that works has to drive their personal vehicles to work and pay for their own gas. Why do you police officers think you are any different? Maybe if you did more to bring in revenue to the city then you could take a taxpayer owned vehicle home. It was a good idea to stop them from using taxpayer money for their own gain (if they use the car to go to a part time job). Now that the cars are available to the city 24/7 the city needs to hire more police officers. Chattanooga is a dangerous place to be in with all the murders, gangs, drug dealers, etc that now is the chance to change that. Double the police force and institute quota's just like most employers have for their employee's. That way they earn their pay raises instead of just being handed one. Clean up the city if you want to attract residents and business to the downtown and outlying areas. Then Chattanooga can stop annexing everything around it as a way to increase tax revenue. ATTN THE REST OF THE MUNICIPALITIES IN TN: Follow Chattanooga's wonderful idea and my advice and TN can finally be a safe place to work and live. We are already in the top ten most dangerous states to live.

December 29, 2010 at 5:21 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

Welcome to the real world folks.

When money is tight, the perks have to go.

A take-home car is a perk. No matter what the job description.

It's about time .gov employees suffer the same as everyone else during an economic contraction.

If you don't like it, go find another low skill job with decent pay and fantastic benefits.

Good luck with that.

December 29, 2010 at 5:57 p.m.
midnitewatchman said...

The next time you get pulled over by a Police Officer or get caught in the act of a crime,ask if he/she is on or off duty. If they are off duty, try your defense in court that they were off duty and at that time, they are the same as anyone else! I am guessing it will not work out to your favor. Also, There was a bill recently passed prohibiting Police Departments requiring Quota's. A little thought before posting goes a long way!

December 29, 2010 at 6:41 p.m.
Bltprf502 said...

Taking the cars from SWAT is STUPID!!!!! The PD is under manned and understaffed as it is. Why take away the quick response? When it is you or your family that has been taken hostage, in a bank when it is being robbed or your child is in a school where there is an active shooter.... Don't blame SWAT when they take an extra 45 min to get there. this is a catastrophe waiting to happen. God help us all... and protect us from those who make stupid decisions that affect our safety.

December 29, 2010 at 7:43 p.m.
fairmon said...

Leave the fire and police departments alone unless the council decides to properly staff them. I have little to no confidence the savings indicated on this issue is correct.

So many other places to save tax dollars and our council selects the one people need most which is police protection. It is not a bad thing to have a car marked police around either rolling or parked. Remember how many off duty police have responded to emergencies and they have done so in high risk situations that resulted in their being injured or worse.

December 29, 2010 at 7:45 p.m.
AndrewLohr said...

If the police were promised take-home cars, keep the promise; let your yea be yea, and your nay nay.

If the promise was a contract, the U.S. Constitution forbids states impairing the obligation of contracts.

If it was a promise, breaking it sucks.

(The above does apply to non-police with takehome cars.)

I expect takehome cars improve response time.
I expect takehome cars improve neighborhood safety. I expect one lawsuit, one bad incident, over the policy change could eat all the savings and more. And takehome cars improve fleet life? Makes sense; has the city looked into dollars? Has mayor Littlefield, a professional administrator, even asked the question? Daisy?

I've heard our police are relatively underpaid; letting them keep cars to moonlight with is a cheap way to keep them here. Sounds good to me.

Of $150,000,000 million a year, this was the easiest $580,000 to improve? I'd rather sell all the tax-paid art in the city, and stop buying more, than take away takehome police cars.

December 30, 2010 at 1:12 a.m.
BOOBOO99 said...

Saving the taxpayers money should not be an issue to chg Police officers a fee to drive cars home...Safety should come first, If we had a major emergency in the city all- off duty police officers would have to rush to the police central center before acting on the emergency and this action could cost people their lives if not acted on fast.If officers took their police cars home they could respond to the scene. But most of the Board members and the Mayor of chattanooga dont think Lives are more important issue in this case..These thugs that are running are city are all about themselves not the citizens of chattanooga. Thats why we have high crimes rates in chattanooga, because the Chattanooga Goverment is a Joke. If i was Police officer of chattanooga i would find another job in other county or state where they would be treated more fairly.

December 30, 2010 at 12:16 p.m.
enufisenuf said...

BooB BOoB, some body should find you a brain. Just what kind of a crises do you forsee that would reqire ALL cops to respond from home? ALL Government is a joke, but all cops going elshere because thay don't get to take their takpayer funded car home to be ready for something not likely to happen is STUPID

December 30, 2010 at 3:47 p.m.

Once again, King Littlemind has a very bad idea.

Remind me... why is he STILL our mayor?

December 30, 2010 at 4:23 p.m.
BOOBOO99 said...

Let see enufisenuf,Let me give you some examples of emergencies that can happen since your to stupid to figure it out on your own...lol....mmm terrorist attack?? Major gas leak?? Missing kids?? or maybe someone could have kidnap you for some animal cruelty..lol

December 30, 2010 at 4:37 p.m.

All the letters written to the Chattanoogan by police officers or their spouses seems to live in Soddy Daisy, Harrison, Hixson, Ooltewah. That said, how is it that they can claim a police car parked at a home improve safety in the city neighborhoods they patrol and work when they all seem to live in the county? It seems they all live far away from the communities they work and patrol in. They have no real ties to and live far away from those communities they're assigned to.

December 31, 2010 at 4:56 p.m.
LibDem said...

I favor benefits for the police. They provide important and risky service for us. (I would like them to get the turn signals working on the patrol cars. Poorly maintained cars are a danger for the officers.)

January 1, 2011 at 5:42 p.m.
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