Lexington Mayor Signs Executive Order Temporarily Allowing Police Cars For Personal Use
Gray said the practice would end after he verified the unusual level of recent violence had subsided.
Late Friday afternoon, the head of the police union challenged the Mayor’s authority to make the move by executive order.
After the Mayor’s news conference, the head of local police union, Bluegrass Lodge #$ of the Fraternal Order of Police, Jason Rothermund said, "The Mayor had the power all along to do this."
Later in the day, Rothermund released another statement that said, "The Mayor does not possess the authority to unilaterally alter the contract."
He was referring to the current collective bargaining agreement between the FOP and the city.
The Mayor’s office said it has no doubt about the executive order’s legality.
Friday evening the Mayor’s office released another statement.
"Today’s executive order is legally appropriate and officers now have the option to drive their police vehicles while off duty," said Commissioner of Law, Janet Graham.
Police Chief Ronnie Bastin said having off-duty officers driving their police cars would deter crime, and make criminals think police are everywhere.
"I am happy that we’re doing this. I think it will help," said Bastin.
Under Mayor Gray’s executive order, the officers would not pay anything to drive their police cars wherever they want within the boundaries of Fayette County.
"I will not let 50 dollars, the cost of a tank of gas, get in the way of public safety," said Mayor Jim Gray.
Fifty dollars was the cost the union agreed to pay for the benefit of driving police cars for personal use. The agreement was pending the union’s vote.
The head of the union suspended the vote this week. He did that after a public dispute over why in 2012 the benefit ended.
"I don’t know why the FOP was so sensitive, or over sensitive on that. It was a factual statement," said Gray.
Even though the union is getting to temporarily drive cars for personal use, free of charge, Jason Rothermund claimed the city and union must agree to any change in benefits.
"I’m not running for election this November. I don’t need to make people happy. What I need to do is to represent the people that I’m obligated to represent," said Rothermund.
If an officer chooses to drive a police cruiser while off-duty, it comes with a few obligations.
The officer has to have an approved weapon in the car, they have to have the police radio on, and they have to be available to respond to a high priority calls that they are near.