July 11, 2017  Woodbury, TN

Should Cannon County Abandon
Widespread Take Home Sheriff’s Vehicles?

Anybody that knows me knows that I absolutely support our police. My years as a professional in the police business and my personal loss of friends in the line of duty as officers would never allow my loyalty to drift. In fact the very spot I was married, which was an event crowded with follow police officers, now serves as the location of the Reno Nevada Memorial for fallen officers.

But the issue of take home cars and the cost to the community has long been an issue with me. I personally would prefer better pay than a take home vehicle. Most deputies still have to have a personal car, and pay insurance anyway. Why let the take home patrol car set unprotected when the deputy is away from home.

I’ll put my soapbox away for a moment as I explain why I think these programs are threatened with extinction.

The was a undated paper by the International Association of Chiefs of Police - Take-Home Cruisers: Issues for Consideration

Most noticeable in the “Issues for Consideration” were the Officer Benefits - Attitude (Self Image), Money saved on personal vehicles (But a cost to the county) Time efficiency, (Questionable),

Then there were the Agency Benefits: Recruiting tool, Bargaining tool

And lastly the Community Benefits – Community Benefits seemed to be minimal and mostly restricted to PERCEPTION OF SAFETY, to the community members,  not actual safety.

Most noticeably absent was any discussion of the cost to the community.

Surprising, the COP report does not even mention the cost to the community in dollars and cents for providing private transportation to deputies. The cost is limited to the cost of the vehicle. Fuel, insurance, vehicle maintenance (especially on older worn-out vehicles that should be replaced), security of the vehicle, security of the officer (Tennessee just passed a law prohibiting revealing the home address of a law enforcement office -- Yet parking a drive home car in front of the house marks the officer's residence)

Then there is also the liability of the county for the additional exposure of the vehicle and office in an official vehicle subjected to liability issues.

The Pros and Cons (In my opinion)
Like most controversial programs, there are always two sides and a plethora of opinions from the informed and uninformed alike. Following are the popular arguments for and against police take-home patrol car  programs.

PROS:  ---  Crime reduction – the popular notion is that more marked units on the street will reduce crime and traffic violations and that marked units parked in residential driveways will keep neighborhoods safer and improve community relations. There are no studies to confirm or refute this, however.  Mileage on take-home units will accrue slower, reducing the rate of turnover. True.  Accountability for cleanliness, maintenance and damage is easier to enforce with one assigned driver instead of many. True.  Increased morale. Probably true.  It can be considered a financial benefit in lieu of raises. True.  Decreased response time. Probably true, but, again, no studies.

CONS: --- They are a huge cost to implement. True.  It’s difficult to adequately secure and/or protect a unit at its residence without being garaged. True.   Vehicle expenses, such as fuel, maintenance, tires, and insurance will increase exponentially. True.  Police vehicle accidents will increase. True.   Unmarked and undercover cars driven to and from work and parked in residential neighborhoods are NO deterrent to crime or traffic issues whatsoever. True.   New vehicles are often assigned by seniority which can negatively affect morale. Probably true.  Some studies suggest that take-home cars should be claimed as supplemental income. True.  Police take-home units may cause friction with other city/county departments which lack them. Probably true.

The above is a summary of the basics of take-home programs; however, there are many variations. For example, some departments restrict take-home units to those members who live within the borders of their city or county limits, while others have no such requirements and simply rely on distance or response time as a criteria.  Some agencies allow assigned vehicles to be used for off duty employment. Other agencies permit assigned vehicles to be used for personal errands and some even allow family members to accompany the officer/deputy/ trooper on these errands. About the only thing administrators agree upon is prohibiting vehicles from leaving their home state, except for official duties, such as extraditions or escorts.

Going, Going, Gone?

In a 2005 P&SN article, they looked at several departments and their take-home programs, one being Kansas City, MO. Since their city auditor’s report prompted this column, we’ll start there. When I last wrote about the KCPD eleven years ago, they had 843 vehicles in their fleet and less than 75 were take-home units. In addition to the command staff, the remainder were assigned to those personnel with 24 hour callback responsibility, i.e., most investigative units, SWAT, K-9, and undercover officers and nearly all were unmarked. Motorcycle officers were allowed to take their solos home during the months in which they rode.

Uniform sergeants and officers (patrol) were not included in the take-home program and shared marked units which were run 24-7. The vehicles taken home were restricted to residences within the city limits and were to be driven to and from work (or crime scenes) only. They were encouraged to transport employees in their units because of limited parking at headquarters and some other facilities.

Fast-forward to the 2015 audit where the KCPD had 922 total vehicles and 341 were taken home, growing from nine percent in 2005 to 37% in 2015. The ten year growth came from increased personnel and many new specialized units. The auditor calculated that the miles these vehicles were driven cost the city $1.5 million in fuel. Policies have also been expanded to allow family members and personal errand usage of the vehicles. The audit made several recommendations, some of which follow:

  1. The chief of police should determine how frequently each employee who has a take-home car actually uses it for after-hours emergencies and whether that take-home car is truly necessary.
  2. The chief should evaluate the cost and propriety of using department vehicles for transport to off duty employment.
  3. With only 13% of the take-home vehicles being marked and 25% having KCPD license plates, the auditor recommended more cars should be marked and more unmarked cars should be identified with official license plates.
  4. The chief should evaluate whether to prohibit transporting nonemployees in these vehicles for nonbusiness purposes. The department countered that they have had no liability related issues from family members riding in take-home vehicles.

USA Today printed an article as far back as 2012 which focused on the tightening of police budgets and how it was affecting take home cars. The link is here:


Tight budgets are forcing some law enforcement agencies to restrict officers from taking their patrol cars home.

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