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Officers need to take patrol cars home

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By Larry Rowell

In a Liberty City Council meeting with only three things on the agenda — the city’s audit, second reading and adoption of next year’s budget, and, at the request of Police Chief Steven Garrett, declaring seven Glock 22 pistols surplus property, the meeting should have been uneventful.
Au contraire.
Instead of Mayor Steven Brown asking for a motion to adjourn, he opened the floor to attendees or anyone else who wanted to address the council.
Councilman Brian Beeler then raised the issue about Liberty’s police officers driving their patrol cars home after their shifts.
Beeler said he wanted to open the subject for discussion and then expressed his disagreement with the policy, saying it wasn’t a good use of the taxpayer’s funds.
It then dawned on me why the entire police department, except for officers Buis and Emerson, was in attendance.
It had leaked out that Beeler was going to address his feelings about cops and take-home cars.
Several questions came to mind after Beeler’s discourse; with basically the only reason he cited being taxpayer’s money.
Garrett said city records showed it takes about $2,400 annually in fuel costs for officers to drive five cars home.
That’s a drop in the bucket from a city budget totaling more than $1.1 million in the General Fund.
And, in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in Orlando in America’s history, I think it’s a good thing that these officers have their equipment in the cars at their houses and can be ready to roll in a matter of minutes.
Officers shouldn’t have to pack assault rifles, ammunition, and other equipment in their personal vehicles.
Think about it. If a catastrophic event occurs somewhere in the county, especially at night, these city police officers are ready to respond.
With more than 550 miles of roads to patrol in the county, the Casey County Sheriff’s Department normally has one patrol unit on at night. Supplemented by one city unit patrolling Liberty, it stretches protecting all citizens in the county to the limit.
That means extra minutes are expended if the city officers have to leave their homes and drive into Liberty to get their patrol cruisers. Minutes that could mean lives.
In addition, with the city getting ready to purchase a $13,000 drug-sniffing dog that will also be trained to apprehend and also trained for search and rescue, what happens to the dog at night? It would have to be transported to the city to get into a police cruiser.
As an editorial board, we are of the opinion that Mr. Beeler needs to propose other ways to cut the city’s budget, if indeed it needs to be cut.
Councilman Jim Worley asked the question when the budget was presented if the city would take in more money in the 2016-17 budget than it’s slated to spend.
The answer was “yes,” with the General Fund beginning balance set at $221,323, and a projected ending balance of $222,208.
If some see this as a perk, so be it. With most officers paid less than $14 an hour, this shows the city values these fine men who risk life and limb every day to keep us safe.
We have good honest lawmen on the city and county levels and one way to appreciate them is to let the city officers take these cars home at night.
Is your life, or the lives of your neighbors, not worth $2,400 a year for an extra measure of safety?
Beeler said at the end of the meeting he was going to look at other counties to see what their policies are with officers and cars.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter what surrounding governments do in this regard.
We have a police chief who feels this is a necessary component of law enforcement and we agree whole-heartedly.
As Garrett said to the council, the officers who comprise the Liberty Police Department want to know the city council has their back.
If Councilman Beeler wants to bring this to a vote, we urge the council to send a strong message to our officers by letting his motion to have police cars parked in Liberty die a fast death by not getting a second.