Tag Archives: Tacoma police

Does it pay for police to take their patrol cars home?

The in basket: Tom Wisniewski writes, “Please remind me what the benefit to taxpayers is of every deputy sheriff and state trooper having his/her own patrol car to commute to work with.

“The benefits to the deputies are obvious: Free transportation to and from work, no need for buying your own second car, something to drive to your part-time job directing traffic around construction zones, etc.

“I would guess the counties/state own at least 33 percent more vehicles than would be required if patrol cars were used by more than one deputy,” Tom said.

The out basket: Krista Hedstrom, before turning over public information officer duties for the State Patrol here to Trooper Russell  Winger recently, replied, “Many troopers have additional duties which require them to be on call and subject to call outs and response to a scene.  Examples of those positions are drug recognition expert, collision tech, rapid deployment force, detectives, public information officer,  K9 and (others). The majority of troopers hold one or more of these specialty positions.

“Each trooper is responsible for the care and equipment of their own vehicle,” she continued, “and are authorized to drive it while in an on-duty status or for overtime that is WSP sponsored .Troopers working part time employment (non-WSP/WSDOT/WTSC sponsored) are not authorized to drive their issued patrol vehicles for these details.

“The policy and regulations related to this issue remain the same for  marked and unmarked patrol vehicles.”

Capt. Tom Wolfe of Bremerton police referred me to a study of this done for the Tacoma Police Department in 2004.

The firm hired concluded that the department saved about $1.5 million a year by assigning cars to its officers, as opposed to having them share cars from a pool.

The bulk of the savings come from officer productivity, in that “it took an average of 28 minutes to check a (pool) vehicle out and load gear and equipment,” the study said, and from not having to provide a place to garage patrol cars when not in use.

“Our analysis shows that the break even point for the city to subsidize officers commuting in their vehicles is between 7 and 14 miles one-way, based strictly on the financial costs of commuting vs. the financial costs of providing in-city parking,” it said.

It also said officers each made an average of six off-duty law enforcement contacts, such as assisting with an arrest, outside of their assigned work hours while driving to or from home, over a sample two month period.

The study recommended the city continue to assign cars to individual officers but said, “The city should examine its policy on subsidizing commuting. This policy should not, however, focus entirely on financial issues and should recognize that officers provide services while commuting to and from work that benefit society as a whole.”

Mark Fulghum, information officer for TPD, said he believes pool cars are treated more roughly and therefore need replacement more often, but the study didn’t make much of a point of that.

It did say that assignment had the downside of encouraging officers to live farther away from work, since they didn’t have to pay for their commute.