Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Should Georgetown police officers who live outside the city limits be allowed to drive their patrol cars home at the end of their shift?
Police Chief Paul Gardner says ‘yes’ but it will be up to Georgetown City Council to decide if they agree.
On Thursday, Gardner made his case for reinstating a “take-home” policy for his department. Officers used to be allowed to take cars home - even if they lived outside the City of Georgetown - but the policy was discontinued several years ago due to budget cuts.
Gardner said there is stiff competition between police agencies looking to hire quality officers and Georgetown is at a disadvantage because departments in Horry and Charleston counties allow police to drive the patrol cars home.
“Our hiring pools are getting smaller. We are starting to steal from each other,” Gardner told council. “It is a morale issue. It really means something to them to have a patrol car in their driveway.”
He said the presence of a police car not only brings safety to the home of the officer, it creates safety in the neighborhood.
“It’s a low-cost benefit to employees,” Gardner said.
He also said if an officer has their car at home, they can clock-in when they get in the vehicle. That, he said, would allow them to respond to calls immediately rather than having to drive to the police department to get their patrol car.
The vast majority of the department’s officers live outside the city limits, something noted by Mayor Jack Scoville.
“We need more people living in the city who are working for us,” Scoville said.
Gardner said he has one officer who lives two-tenths-of-a-mile from the city who cannot afford a second vehicle, so he rides a bicycle to work.
“This would save him a car payment,” Gardner said.
Councilman Brendon Barber said there are others who work for the city who have a lengthy commute and they get no help with transportation.
“I have a problem with all these cars being out of the city limits,” Barber said. “I have a problem with it from an ethical standpoint.”
Gardner is requesting officers be allowed to drive a vehicle as far as 20 miles outside the city limits.
He said the officers who take cars home will help pay for the extra gas.
“What about the maintenance,” Councilman Rudolph Bradley asked.
Gardner said he estimates the cost will be about $12,000 annually.
Twelve thousand dollars is not a lot to maintain the continuity of our employees,” Council member Carol Jayroe said. “We cannot dictate where an employee lives.”
Scoville said council will decide whether to allow the policy change as it debates the 2014-15 budget during the next two months.