Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Mansfield Wants To Curb Take Home Cars For City Workers

City County Councilor Angela Mansfield (D) is proposing to cut the number of city workers who have take home cars by about 250, producing several million dollars in savings for city taxpayers reports WTHR's Mary Milz. Under Mansfield's proposal, a city worker would have to travel at least 10,000 miles per year on city business in order to qualify for a take home car. She is targeting city employees who primarily use their city-issued vehicle to commute to and from work. The city also tells Milz it plans to replace its current fleet with more fuel-efficient cars and purchase some hybrid vehicles in an effort to hold down fuel costs.

When I first moved here from Illinois back in 1990, there were two things I quickly observed about government workers in Indiana. They are paid much less than their counterparts in Illinois, and they are much more likely to be issued a take home car as a perk to augment their low pay. The biggest users of take home cars, public safety officers, will not be affected by Mansfield's proposal. I recall hearing the story about Mayor Hudnut ending the take home car policy for city police during his tenure. Angry police officers turned in their cars with the engine running and the keys locked inside in protest of the move. Later, Mayor Goldsmith re-instituted the take home car policy. I'm still not sold on the notion that taxpayers benefit in having police officers being able to use their cruisers as personal vehicles. It seems we've had more than our fair share of police officers caught drinking and then driving their police cruisers in Marion County, sometimes causing accidents involving bodily injury. I would prefer we pay our public servants a fair wage and stop using take home cars as a way of augmenting their low pay.

24 comments:

Sir Hailstone said...

Gary - you mention Illinois, in some downstate counties the officers do take their cars home. Some nights there may not be a deputy on duty but the 911 dispatcher calls a deputy at home to respond if anything happens during the wee hours.

I understand Chicago implemented a take-home program to "show force" in certain neighborhoods if the CPD officers lived in those areas.

Now allowing a housing inspector, health department employee, zoning inspector, or whatever a take home car? NO!

Advance Indiana said...

I don't think the take home policy for police officers is unique to Indiana. I just think with other government workers it seems to be more prevalent here than it was when I worked in state government in Illinois.

indyernie said...

"The city also tells Milz it plans to replace its current fleet with more fuel-efficient cars and purchase some hybrid vehicles in an effort to hold down fuel costs."

So we are going to pay a huge premium to purchase a hybrid to save fuel? The city will have to own that vehicle 10 years to break even.

Do we know how many vehicles are assigned to City / County employees and elected officials?

How many to the Mayor? one or three? His assistant and deputies one each?
How about the Sheriff? Reports at Indyu say several for the Sheriff's personal use and his assistants?

I can see no reason why health, zoning and building inspectors are driving vehicles home.

Give one vehicle to the essential people and police and let the rest drive city owned fleet vehicles, while only on duty.
The city will save a bundle.

Advance Indiana said...

She didn't give a precise number of workers with take home cars in her report, but if Mansfield's proposal would curb the number by 250, the number has to be pretty high.

David said...

There have been studies done that show that police having take-home cars actually saves money, in addition to the added appearance of police presence. A take-home car is assigned to one officer, whose responsibility it is to keep the car clean and in good condition. It is only driven on duty for one eight-hour shift per day. Contrast that with a fleet car that gets hard use 24/7. Those cars break down more often, cost more to maintain, and wear out sooner. The savings from having fewer cars is offset by the increased maintenance.

So take-home police cars probably are a smart choice from the city budget standpoint, aside from the other benefits.

Anonymous said...

Well, Officer David, please cite one of those studies. Author, date...

I think we'll be waiting quite a long time.

Two officers in my area have unmarked cars. I know for a fact one is a desk jockey. He drives like a maniac, too, and seems to be home a lot. Hauls his kids to school and activites a lot in that car.

My unscientific observation, is that unmarked cars seem to be real popular. Heavily-tinted windows, too. What deterrant that is, escapes me. You can't tell if it's a police car, and you can't tell if there's a cop inside.

All other city employess--ALL--have no need for take-home cars.

And Ernie, I don't know where you're getting your Hybrid information. Probably the same place you get some of your other "information," but I'll let the audience build their own joke there.

I just bought a Hybrid last month. Shopped among five different brands. Bought one (American!) that was $22K, nicely equipped. It serves me quite well at 40 mph plus in the city, more on the road.

Pretty sure the city, in bulk, could get a better price than I did.

And you can be pretty sure Mansfield wouldn't introduce her idea without the mayor's support. I happen to know that take-homes are a hugely popular perk, and they're overused for personal use. If the Mayor cut these from the budget flat-out, he'd probably have a large-scale revolt on his hands.

As for government worker pay, it needs raised. Maybe we could dedicate half the savings to wages and fringes. The savings don't end with the car purchase--the insurance and gas expenditures would go down, too. Pool cars could be used for inspectors, etc. And the employee who needs a vehicle once in awhile for official business, could get mileage, just like I do from my employer.

Win-win.

I remember the Hudnut take-home car fiasco. He should've fired every single officer who committed those acts of insubordination. Their acts were childish.

Anonymous said...

Gary,
Start with the Coroner's office. Adminstrative staff there all have take home cars simply to commute to work. They do no field work whatsoever. And are NOT public servants in any sense of the word. The secretary and other office staff have cars to drive around in on our dime. Its one of MANY examples Mansfield is discussing.

Anonymous said...

There have been plenty of good officers who were able to do something because they had their take-home car. I knew of two cases in recent years where I saw off-duty officers coming in after tornadoes went through the city. These officers were able to drive to the area, find intersections that needed traffic control, and work there.

Secondly, fleet vehicles often have numerous problems after hitting only about 40K in miles. Most officers that have take home cars treat those cars like their own. Pool cars are usually treated as someone else's car.

The mayor calls the take home car a $3,000 benefit. It is more like $5,000-$7,000. However, when they finally take them away, they don't want to pay them that much. Therefore they low ball how much the car is worth and add it to the wage.

The car is issued equipment, that means that while you are not on call, there is a little expectation that if a mass call out goes out, those who can go go. This happened when a van was taken with a child in it.

Sorry, but if you take away the car, don't expect me to come running. For starters, I would not use my personal vehicle to an area where it might be damaged. Secondly, I could could not get to an area fast enough since it would be illegal to break traffic laws.

Anonymous said...

Well, Officer David, please cite one of those studies. Author, date...

I think we'll be waiting quite a long time.


Ask any officer of a police department who has pool vehicles and you will find your answer. Our vehicles were falling apart after 50K. IPMD officers have vehicles falling apart after about 80K up to and over 100K. That is a 50K difference.

As far as personal use, that could be stopped and limited. Maybe we could also take away unmarked cars, because unless your a good observer, some of those don't even have dash lights or anything. Of course those are usually admins types that fear driving to the store and getting waved down and having to do actual police work.

I remember the Hudnut take-home car fiasco. He should've fired every single officer who committed those acts of insubordination. Their acts were childish.

They were just turning in their vehicles. What are you going to do, fire 1/4 of cops. You can't replace 25% of the police department over night. From what I heard, a lot of cops participated, so maybe it was 1/2 the force. More and more cops are now seeing that they can rule a city. Being reactive means more break-ins, more assaults, more killings. So when they are unhappy, some just sit back and take their runs. You call them, they come. Of course that doesn't do much in terms of crime prevention.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know where you're getting your Hybrid information."

Compare the price that you paid for the Hybrid against the same standard model. How much more did you spend? $6000.00? More?
Divide that amount by the MPG savings and add the extra maintenance you will pay over the years, remember warranty will not cover your general maintenance. It is fairly simple 40 mpg compared to 20mpg.

15000 miles @ 40mpg = 375 gal per year
15000 miles @ 20mpg = 750 gal per year
___________
Diff. 375 gal per year

375 gal x $3.25 = $1218.75

Take the price difference of $6000.00 divided by $1218.75 = 4.92 years of driving to break-even.

This Hybrid will require ownership for 4.92 years to offset the $6000.00 price difference. If the owner drives less a longer time will be needed to reach the break-even mark. The extra maintenance cost is not figured into this, that will extend the break-even point.

When it’s put on paper, the buyer needs to be GREEN to the gills to rationalize the extra expense.
Maybe that's where Ernie received his information.

College Professor said...

It's hard to do apples to apples comparison of hybrids. The cost difference in identical hybrid and non-hybrid models is between 1,000 and 3,000. Not the 6,000 you indicate.

For the ubiquitous Crown Vic, there is no good option. For the standard pool vehicles, perhaps the Ford Escape hybrid (a very reasonable low-20s) would be an option.

David said...

Well, Anon 5:32, start Googling. I'm sure you'll find the study. What you won't find is your anecdotal opinion, which counts for absolutely nothing.

Anonymous said...

A few calls to local Ford dealers provide a little insight.
The Escape Hybrid moderately equipped is $33k. This reflects a $3K to $4K difference vs. non-Hybrid. With retail being the price. Expect within a week or two to see dealer markups of $1500.00 or more because of shortages.
Take in consideration that the Non-Hybrid is discounted and the $6000.00 price difference is a factor.
Also keep in mind that in the earlier comparison the commenter failed to consider deprecation.
A typical used car buyer will be leery of a 5 year old Hybrid with 60k miles because of service requirements.
The buyers of Hybrids need to look beyond the fuel savings.
Manufactures are not required to discount to municipalities. The Hybrid will cost the city more than expected.

Anonymous said...

Where DO you folks get this crap?

The proposal exempts public safety, so the IndyU nutterballs (all eight of you) can relax. Although, I think someone should look at public safety take-homes. Most are well-used, I'd guess. But I've seen plenty of examples of misuse.

I bought my Hybrid, which cost about $1,500 more than the non-Hybrid, about 40 days ago. I put about 30,000 miles per year on a car, so I'll save the extra money within 12-14 months. I've done the math, pal.

At $5,000 more per car for Hybrids, which is high, if the car is kept until 120,000 miles, using a price of $3 a gallon, the extra expense is justified (30 mpg,. vs. 20 mpg traditional engine).

The big question now, for all Hybrid users, is battery life and battery replacement cost. It's all over the board.

Saturn hypes a municipality in Tennessee which bought its Hybrids. I imagine any volume purchase could get a discount. They don't accelerate quickly, so the police department's unique needs would not apply. But for all the other city fleet uses, it's perfect.

And whether or not you know it (I do because I actually shopped for Hybrids recently), the waiting-list and dealer premium rumors are urban myth. Every single dealerhsip I walked into had multiple Hybrids in stock or quickly available. Thanks to the President, our economy is in the shitter, so new-car purchases aren't exactly setting the world on fire. I got the dealer to throw in some extras...it wasn't difficult, and I'm just buying one car.

On a lark, I logged into the Google site for studies like David mentioned...there were none. I tried multiple combinations, and got zippo. If you have a credible study, please share it.

And could we puh-LEEZE stop pulling out the little girl lost story? Good police work, but it gets more glamourized in each re-telling. The damned story is taking on a life of its own.
I happen to believe, having talked to many LEOs about that case, that their dedication was so strong, they'd have crawled on their hands and knees to help. Readily-available take-home cars had absolutely nothing to do with their response time or effectiveness.

Anonymous said...

99% of the Health Dept. inspectors have to use their own vehicles, their own gas and their own insurance. We are paid mileage to our inspections at the Federal rate. This does not pay for wear and tear on our car, depreciation or the countless uninsured and suspended drivers that have hit us.

Anonymous said...

"Readily-available take-home cars had absolutely nothing to do with their response time or effectiveness."

Whatever:

Take home police cars: I feel I have to go, the city has given me a car. It has lights and sirens so I can get through traffic a lot quicker.

Private vehicles: My wife has our only working vehicle, the other is in the shop on my days off. I can't go.

Or, The city refuses to cover officers called out in their personal vehicles. As such, I don't want to take on added risk with extra driving. If the city offers to come and pick me up, I will help out, if not, I am staying home.

Or, I don't want to go, I don't owe the city anything. A lot of Democrates have told us during our demands for a raise that this is "just another job." Using that logic, I would rather sit at home and enjoy my time off.

Or, I will go ahead and go. The over-time pay will make up for the gas usage. However, I will first have to drive to my roll call site following traffic laws. Oh wait, so many cops came, there are no more police pool cars available. I decide to go home.

Or, I get to the roll call, I decide to hope in a vehicle with three other guys. Now we have one vehicle with three sets of eyes limited to where the one vehicle can go. If we each had a vehicle (take home or not), we would have three sets of eyes in three different places.

This does not just apply to the little girl call out. I see you totally blew off my examples of off-duty officers responding during at least two tornadoe incidents. Remember the mini-riot a little over 10 years ago. There was a call out then as well. If you think officers will drive their personal cars into a riot area, you are really mistaken. I wouldn't drive anywhere near the area. In fact, if I did not have a take home car and was told to respond to the riot, I would ask when my ride was going to pick me up.

Anonymous said...

"At $5,000 more per car for Hybrids, which is high, if the car is kept until 120,000 miles"

Only a true “Nutterball” would keep a Hybrid for 120,000 Miles. What then? Dump the batteries in a landfill?

Do all the math, but do it to completion. A Hybrid is just a trendy toy for the “Greenies” , like the Hummer is for others. We don’t need either.
Until something is done about converting other energy fuels the bottom line is, you true “Nutterballs” will be spending more money in the long run by buying Hybrids.

And only $1500.00 for a comparable vehicle? I don't think so. The batteries will cost more than that.
Comparable equals same exact equipment.

Anonymous said...

"Take home police cars: I feel I have to go, the city has given me a car. It has lights and sirens so I can get through traffic a lot quicker."

Under the Indiana Code, you can't simply use lights and sirens "to get through traffic a lot quicker" unless you're on an emergency run.


"Private vehicles: My wife has our only working vehicle, the other is in the shop on my days off. I can't go."

Few, if any, employees are able to use "lack of transportation" as justification for avoiding work. You'd be subject to disciplinary action or terminated.

"Or, The city refuses to cover officers called out in their personal vehicles. As such, I don't want to take on added risk with extra driving. If the city offers to come and pick me up, I will help out, if not, I am staying home."

The numerous nurses, firefighters, EMTs, et al. are required to report to their workplaces in emergencies driving their own vehicles. You'd be disciplined or terminated.


"Or, I don't want to go, I don't owe the city anything. A lot of Democrates have told us during our demands for a raise that this is "just another job." Using that logic, I would rather sit at home and enjoy my time off."

All sorts of people in all sorts of jobs are subject to mandatory overtime. You'd be discplined or terminated.

"Or, I will go ahead and go. The over-time pay will make up for the gas usage. However, I will first have to drive to my roll call site following traffic laws. Oh wait, so many cops came, there are no more police pool cars available. I decide to go home."

You've left work without authorization. You'd be disciplined or terminated.

"Or, I get to the roll call, I decide to hope in a vehicle with three other guys. Now we have one vehicle with three sets of eyes limited to where the one vehicle can go. If we each had a vehicle (take home or not), we would have three sets of eyes in three different places."

One or two could stay in the car and drop the others off on a foot patrol. Voila! Sets of eyes in different places.

Anonymous said...

Few, if any, employees are able to use "lack of transportation" as justification for avoiding work. You'd be subject to disciplinary action or terminated.

Sorry, but the job has a set shift. Unless the city is going to pay cops on call pay, they really can force anyone to be ready to go at a moments notice. Since most police have rotating days off, it is not unusual for an officer to plan appoints during their days off. As long as an officer can make it to their normal shift, you can't disipline them for not showing up. If you want them to be on-call all the time, you have to pay them and issue them the equipment to do the job.

The numerous nurses, firefighters, EMTs, et al. are required to report to their workplaces in emergencies driving their own vehicles. You'd be disciplined or terminated.

That is because the vast majority of these folks actually think they can be forced to work. When folks are on call, they get paid. Every single business and organization out there uses the "If we get a hold of you and tell you to come to work, you must come." The fact is, unless they are paying on-call pay, they can't force you to do anything. Hate to burst your bubble, but vehicles break down all the time. In fact, I know plenty of folks who could not make it into work because of car trouble. This wasn't a special emergency, just the normal job. Guess what, they were not fired. Also, all those people are given a safe place to stage, then are taken to the workplace. I can see an officer get into trouble if their private vehicle was running and they refused to go to the staging area. I don't remember any EMTs, doctors, or nurses being forced to drive into or near the area where the emergency was.

"All sorts of people in all sorts of jobs are subject to mandatory overtime. You'd be discplined or terminated."

And those people don't know how to play the game. Sorry, but if your going to put me on-call 24/7, you had best provide me with the means to work those kind of hours. Folks just can't up and leave their 5 and 7 year old home alone can they. When you work for the railroad, you do have set time frames. There is also plenty of OT. However, some folks on the railroad are making $60K+overtime. Last guy who just went to apply said that most of the guys there said it would be easy to make close to $100K working enough hours. If I made that much, my wife would not need to work, so technically she would be home to care for the kids. Cops make $52K, almost half of $100K. Likely not enough for the average family to have a stay at home mom. Doctors make well into six-figures, nurses I know who work hospitals make at least $55K, but most work enough OT (sometimes double time) or private jobs where they can easily hit $75K or more.

You've left work without authorization. You'd be disciplined or terminated.

Ok, I won't leave. I will sit and wait, or are you saying that cops should be forced to drive their personal vehicles into dangerous situations? Do doctors have to do that? Nurses? EMTs? Didn't think so. So instead of turning around, I will just wait for the next available work vehicle or other employer supplied transportation to the incident site.

One or two could stay in the car and drop the others off on a foot patrol. Voila! Sets of eyes in different places.

Suspect is in a vehicle, with an average speed of 40MPH. Yea, cops on foot patrol would do real good in those situations.

I also hate to burst your bubble, but in order to fire folks for any of the above, you would first have to know they are blowing off work and not going. Excuses like no transportation and childcare are valid excuses. The employer is responsible for at least meeting the employee half way. If the police departments and hospitals want to use Wal-mart style tactics and fire so many folks per year, so be it. In the end, if you treat your folks like trash, you will end up hiring trash. The medical field is already seeing problems even after paying your average hospital nurse a pretty good wage. I know of nurses who burn sick time to go work their part-time $40/hr jobs at other hospitals under contract. Do they get fired? Nope. Why? There is too much of a shortage to fire someone, unless they just do not know the job. Cops are the same way. Unless you provide me with the means and pay, don't expect 24/7 service. I know this might scare folks like you, but it is the way it is. Last I checked, unless you are on-call and being paid, it is legal to drink an alcoholic beverage. "Sorry, I can't come in, I have been drinking." Let me guess, you advocate terminating people because they went out and had a few beers and now can't go to work. You must be a Walton!

Anonymous said...

If you want them to be on-call all the time, you have to pay them and issue them the equipment to do the job.

The Indiana Department of Labor disagrees with you:
http://www.in.gov/labor/wagehour/estandfaq.html#oncall

Do I have to be paid for "on-call" time?
Generally, you are only required to be paid for time while you are under the direction and control of your employer. An employee who is required to remain "on-call" at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not considered to be working while "on-call."

“When folks are on call, they get paid. Every single business and organization out there uses the "If we get a hold of you and tell you to come to work, you must come." The fact is, unless they are paying on-call pay, they can't force you to do anything.”

See above.

“Ok, I won't leave. I will sit and wait, or are you saying that cops should be forced to drive their personal vehicles into dangerous situations?”

No, as you said you should just show up at roll call and work as assigned, be it in a two or four man car, a van, or a foot patrol.

“Suspect is in a vehicle, with an average speed of 40MPH. Yea, cops on foot patrol would do real good in those situations.”

”You can outrun a cruiser but you can’t outrun a Motorola.”

“I also hate to burst your bubble, but in order to fire folks for any of the above, you would first have to know they are blowing off work and not going. Excuses like no transportation and childcare are valid excuses.”

What fantasy world are you living in? In our land ruled by the doctrine of employment at-will, people are terminated from employment all the time based on factors out of their control.

“I know of nurses who burn sick time to go work their part-time $40/hr jobs at other hospitals under contract. Do they get fired? Nope. Why? There is too much of a shortage to fire someone, unless they just do not know the job. Cops are the same way.”

An applicant for a nursing position must hold a higher level of education and training than an applicant for a police officer position.

“Last I checked, unless you are on-call and being paid, it is legal to drink an alcoholic beverage. ‘Sorry, I can't come in, I have been drinking’”

”We’ve noticed that you’ve cited alcohol use the last two times we’ve called you in. We’re concerned that you may have a problem and may pose a danger to yourself or others. We’re suspending you pending an investigation, and we’re requiring you to receive alcohol evaluation and treatment.”

Anonymous said...

5:01,

Your wrong. It is obvious you know nothing about police work. Also, substance abuse may be covered under the ADA. Doing something legal when you are not officially on-call is not grounds for termination. While this may be an at-will state, most police officers are protected by unions, contracts, and merit boards. It is no my fault the department has a "zero" tolerance for alcohol while on-duty, even though the state does not declare me intoxicated until I am at a .08 blood alcohol content.

I know of two cases in which, using your logic, people could have been fired. In the one incident, the employee had a strong case of discrimination, since most police department admins always treat employees unfair. In the other case, the rumors of being able to force officers to come in, even though they would not be paid "on-call" pay pretty much died when the admin discovered that it would be illegal not to pay us. If they want to control your life 24/7, the law says you have to be paid.

Using IMPD as an example, an officer would have a good lawsuit considering they were actually going to allow one officer with TWO DUIs to come back to the force (until he got #3!). If they won't fire a person for a DUI, they are going to fail when they discriminate and try to fire you for having had a beer or two at home just before a major emergency causing you not to be able to work. If you want folks at the ready, you do have to pay them on-call pay. An employee is not considered to be working while "on-call." Duh. That only means that if I call up the store and say "Hey, I am running to the mall. Hit my cell if I am needed." I am not on company time. If I am in an accident, I can't go and claim that the company is responsible. If I fall at the mall, it is not workman's comp. I am still getting paid my $2/hr (or whatever) and I am limited in what I can do (no drinking).

Anonymous said...

Substance abuse is not covered, and in fact is specifically exempted from, the ADA if the individual is currently abusing a substance. Most police officers are protected by unions? Hmmm, the line I always hear is "The FOP is a fraternal organization, not a labor union", and their status with the NLRB would support that.

Pilots and truck drivers often can't drink off-duty due to their schedules and sure enough they don't receive on-call pay. In fact, for most over the road truck driver jobs, the employee starts out as an on-call employee.

You also seem very misunderstood about employment discrimination. The civil rights statutes prohibit discrimination because of a protected class. If there are two race white males, both under forty and one is terminated for an offense and the other is given six or seven "second chances", the civil rights statutes have not been violated. The civil rights statutes don't mandate that everyone be treated the same, despite popular misconception.

I'll accept your point about paying police officers for being on-call if you can produce a citation to the statute that requires that. I think that's the only thing that could possibly overcome a statement by the Department of Labor that employees are not required to be paid for being on-call.

Anonymous said...

You proved my point about on-call. If you are under direct control, you are on-call and must be paid. Police work is NOT a job where you are _always_ on-call. Working for Norfolk Southern and trucking are jobs that work on a rotating basis. When your name is hit on the board, you get called into work your _normal_ shift. That is how they operate, so technicall you are not on-call. Example I was told is that if they offer overtime (and I guess they offer a lot), you can't get fired for not taking it because you are busy. This is no different than policing. You have a set work agreement, a shift. Outside that shift, the employeer cannot control your actions without paying on-call pay. It is pretty cut and dry. As far as treating folks different, I would disagree, based on the actions I know others have taken. As long as a person can point out vast differences in treatment between two employees and can claim a protected class is why, the employeer usually backs down. I have seen it happen.

Russ said...

Why is it that half the time I see a police car out on the roads, they're being driven by the cop's wife or their teenage kids? Do Mom and the teens run out to cover calls also? Not only that, but they're usually speeding when they are driving around...

Although I understand the theory of why the cops are given take-home cars, their mileage should be audited and the term "personal use" should probably be limited somewhat.

On top of that, we have a cop that lives down the street; he comes home, parks his car in the driveway, goes in the house, and doesn't come out all night. That's his prerogative, but I question whether simply having a car parked in the driveway keeps bad guys at bay when the officer is never out of the house to witness any criminal behavior in the first place. Going out to cover calls from home is fine, but it does nothing for the wretched state of the neighborhood that the cop and I both live in.

If LEOs want more help on the streets, they need to look at ways to cut costs on their own end as well.