Officers Driving Patrol Vehicles Home? It’s a Successful Program
Look down a street in Yakima and you may see a Yakima Police patrol vehicle parked in front of a private home. That's because in 2013, the Yakima Police Department (YPD) negotiated a take home car policy with the city as part of a wage freeze agreement. Officers agreed to a two-year wage freeze in exchange for the new program.
UNDER THE OLD SYSTEM CARS WERE BREAKING DOWN
Before, the city had mostly used a pool car fleet system. The bulk of the patrol fleet was run on a pool system, with the city maintaining around 35 patrol vehicles. Police Spokeswoman Yvette Inzunza says many cars were in service 20 hours per day, seven days per week under the system, so the average lifespan of a pool patrol vehicle was only three years. Within that short time frame, the vehicles accumulated 60-70 thousand miles and required replacement due to mechanical issues associated with constant use.
YPD VEHICLES NOW HAVE LONGER LIVES SAVING TAXPAYER MONEY
Inzunza says after switching to the take-home car program, YPD purchased 74 new vehicles in 2014. The vehicles have lasted nearly 10 years and most have now exceeded 100,000 miles, and in some cases 130,000. Police say over the life of the vehicles, maintenance costs have been lower since the vehicles were not in service constantly, and officers were responsible for monitoring the maintenance cycles. Several independent university studies have consistently shown that maintaining an assigned vehicle fleet is more efficient than a pool fleet, despite the higher startup cost.
THE PROGRAM HAS IMPROVED MORALE AND INCREASED VISIBILITY
Officers say the take home car program has not only improved morale and efficiency, but it also allows for off-duty use of the vehicle. This increased visibility of patrol vehicles in the community and created a secondary force of officers available to respond in case of emergencies. Inzunza says over the ten years the program has been in service, off-duty officers have intervened in numerous serious life-threatening incidents, including kidnappings, felony assaults, domestic violence incidents, impaired driving incidents and collisions, and even a child rescued from falling through the ice into a Yakima pond.
MORE OFFICERS CAN NOW RESPOND TO AN EMERGENCY
Capt. Jay Seely says with the expanded take home fleet, the department effectively more than doubled the number of marked units it could deploy in case of emergency. It also allowed for officers called in due to an emergency to be "duty ready" and able to respond to calls significantly quicker since they did not have to drive to the station, locate an available pool vehicle, check it out, and then start responding to calls.
MOST OFFICERS ARE QUALIFIED TO TAKE HOME VEHICLES THEY PAY FOR
Currently, the department has 119 officers on the books, with nine not qualifying for a take-home vehicle yet due to their probationary period. Officers are permitted to drive their vehicles off-duty, with the expectation they are duty ready and able to respond to any emergency encountered while they are driving them. As long as an officer lives within 45 driving miles of the main Yakima Police Station and has completed their probationary period, they can drive their vehicle home. However, officers are expected to complete routine vehicle maintenance at an approved facility on their off-duty time, and that is also not compensated.
THE YPD PROGRAM HAS LEAD OTHER DEPARTMENTS TO DO THE SAME
Since implementing the take home car program, most agencies in the valley have adopted it as well. It has become a popular benefit for attracting potential applicants, and YPD has even been able to recruit laterals from as far away as Kittitas County. Overall, the take home car policy has been a tremendous success for YPD, creating a more efficient and effective police force that benefits both the department and the community it serves.
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