Lexington Police are allowed to drive their cruisers between home and work but they can’t run errands with them.
A vote could have changed that but the vote was suspended because the police officer’s union didn’t like some criticism from an aide to the mayor.
The personal-use program was suspended to cut costs. It was suppose to save around $800,000 with the cut but the city says it ended up saving less than $300,000.
For the past six months the city says it has been working with the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union, to reinstate that personal-use policy.
After Tuesday’s public safety committee meeting it appeared Lexington Police officers would vote ‘yes’ to paying a $50 fee so they could take their cruisers for personal use but all that changed Wednesday when the vote was suspended.
“Jamie Emmons, chief of staff for Gray, said that it was the FOP that decided to do away with personal use for police vehicles when the city asked for cost savings from the police department, fire department and other unions several years ago,” reported a Herald-Leader article.
The FOP said it was forced to cut the program to avoid layoffs and benefit cuts. The FOP said it still wants to reinstate that policy but doesn’t like being blamed for the lack of police presence over the last two years.
Jason Rothermund, President of FOP BluegrassLodge #4 released this statement in regards to the newspaper article:
“This statement has contaminated the voting process, so the vote must be suspended. The statement made by Jamie Emmons does not accurately portray the reasons why the home fleet program was altered. The Police Officers of this city deserve better than to be blamed for the lack of police presence on the streets, which in turn is being blamed for the recent spike in violent crimes in Lexington.”
Council members said reinstating the program could double the number of police cars on the road and the city hopes that would deter crime.
“When you see a police car you, maybe, let off the gas a little bit,” said Scott Shapiro, senior adviser to Mayor Gray. “We think that there’re thousands of these kids of reactions to police officers driving around town. People feel safer when they see police cars and others, when they see police cars, may think differently about what they might be doing.”
The city said crime dropped by 7.8% in 2013 when police weren’t allowed to use their cruisers for personal use but the city said it still supports the program.
In response to the vote suspension, the city said it hopes union members will support the vote soon.