Thursday, December 18, 2008

Don't Be Fooled By The Headline

"Free ride for city's car users may come to an end" says a headline in today's Star discussing a plan to reduce the cost of public safety officer's take-home cars to taxpayers, but don't shed any tears for those workers just yet. The plan brokered by the Republican-controlled council and Mayor Ballard's administration sits just fine with the FOP, which should tell you something. Here's what the Star says is being proposed:

The City-County Council's Public Works Committee will vote on a proposal to charge the roughly 1,900 public safety personnel with take-home vehicles a monthly surcharge of $51, the cost of a 17-gallon tank of gas, once gas hits $3 a gallon.

The surcharge would remain in effect for at least 90 days or until gas reached $4 a gallon, when the monthly cost would increase to $68, the cost of a tank at the $4 rate.

Officers could opt out of the take-home vehicle program if they didn't want to pay.

Unless gas prices shoot back up to $3 any time soon, public safety officers aren't going to be paying a dime for personal use of their city-furnished vehicles. And even if prices do reach $3, it doesn't come close to paying the added costs taxpayers are forking over to allow police officers their favored take-home car policy. In other words, the taxpayers will continue to be screwed. Can we trade this lousy deal offered behind door number one for the deal behind door number two?

Here's the problem, which the Star article completely fails to discuss. Current city policy not only allows police officers unlimited free use of their take-home cars for personal use, but it also allows them to rent themselves out to private security companies using the uniforms, equipment and cars you furnish them. Private security companies make millions annually off of your uniformed public safety officers, and the officers make a decent second income to supplement their already good-paying, full-time police jobs. Not surprisingly, the proposal doesn't touch this sweet little deal. Other major cities wisely collect fees from the private security companies to share in the profit of rent-a-cop. It's obvious our Republican mayor and council put the interest of the FOP and the private security companies over the taxpaying-public. This is a missed opportunity to save taxpayers $1-2 million annually. This is what happens when you allow police officers to serve as city councilors.

10 comments:

Downtown Indy said...

I like the idea of businesses PAYING for the all-to-necessary security rather than an on-duty cop (perhaps on overtime). It has the added benefit of placing more officers in an area to assist (or simply be on the lookout) should a crime take place near the one who hired them. It happens. A lot.

D said...

The take-home cars are a benefit arguably worth several thousand dollars a year. Are you suggesting that should be taken away and replaced with a corresponding salary increase? Anything else would be the same thing as a pay cut.

And if officers couldn't work security jobs, you'd probably be whining about your tax dollars paying to support lots of police runs to certain businesses by on-duty officers.

Jason said...

In other major cities, however, if you want to hire an off-duty officer, you don't go to the officer. You go to their version of the FOP, and expect to pay far north of $30/hour because it's a contract issue.

Officers working part-time is a need-based issue. Employers don't want to shell out major money to the contractor unless they have to. Banks which have been robbed repeatedly are forced for insurance reasons to hire security.

Anywho, there isn't a single roll call site that has the space to accomodate hundreds of additional cars per site, so where would you put them? If you let officers take them to and from work, who's going to enforce THAT policy, considering most of them don't get enforced as it is?

The only reason the take-home car program was reinstituted was because an informal survey was done independently by a group of officers that demonstrated it was cheaper. Bean counters tend to cut costs to the point where a given car is going to be driven 3 shifts in a row, 24 hours a day. 2-man cars have been proposed in the past (we're the biggest city in the nation that doesn't have 2-man cars, but then the police department here is less than HALF the recommended per capita size according to DoJ.) Some officers are still driving cars with over 100,000 miles on them. The only way this is possible is because people tend to take care of a car issued to them moreso than someone who's driving a random jalopy every day.

Finally, the take-home car program is NOT a benefit or perk. If it was it would have to be offered to officers living outside of Marion County. The way the city gets around this is by saying that it is a benefit to the citizens of Marion County by having increased police presence. Now we all know it's a great perk for officers living in the city, but at the same time technically it's not supposed to be used as collateral in negotiations, otherwise those living out of county should be receiving compensation as well. O'Connor brought it up constantly during the round of negotiations a while back and he was completely wrong in the way he demonstrated the argument and in the facts he presented. Hope this helps...

Concerned Taxpayer said...

The one thing that the Red Star Rag "forgets" to mention is that take-home vehicles SAVE BIG BUCKS because the warranty lasts three times longer than on a vehicle that is driven 24/7.
MANY repairs and maintenance functions are paid for through the warranty, instead of tax dollars.
In addition, the vehicles last longer and are in much better condition because the officer takes "ownership" of it. 24/7 cars are driven into the ground, very poorly maintained, and are usually full of chicken bones, sandwich wrappers, and empty cans and cups.

Indianapolis was innovative in 1968 by starting this program. Cities all over the U.S. still request a copy of the "Indianapolis Report" that proves how much money is saved by take-home vehicles versus 24/7 pool cars.

spooknp said...

Current city policy not only allows police officers unlimited free use of their take-home cars for personal use, but it also allows them to rent themselves out to private security companies using the uniforms, equipment and cars you furnish them. Private security companies make millions annually off of your uniformed public safety officers, and the officers make a decent second income to supplement their already good-paying, full-time police jobs. Not surprisingly, the proposal doesn't touch this sweet little deal. Other major cities wisely collect fees from the private security companies to share in the profit of rent-a-cop. It's obvious our Republican mayor and council put the interest of the FOP and the private security companies over the taxpaying-public. This is a missed opportunity to save taxpayers $1-2 million annually. This is what happens when you allow police officers to serve as city councilors.

Sorry, but what is done is done. When officers are used to making $35/hr. plus in some cases, they are not going to magically work part-time for $20/hr. Why? It is simple, you pull all six or so officers out of Broad Ripple on Friday and Sat. nights. The run load on that district will shoot-up dramatically, calling for the need to add six or more officers to the district. If they offer over-time, the OT rate is a much higher rate of pay than the city furnished part-time job. Even if it is not over-time, the city will still be responsible for providing adequate police coverage to answer all the calls coming in (drunk fights, drunks walking in the street, etc.). So your taxes will have to be raised to cover the increase costs of additional cops in busy areas.

Secondly, since more and more of the suburban departments are paying very close to what IMPD is making, we could see a trend of IMPD loosing good officers to the suburban departments where they can make more money and have a better work environment. I don't see folks in Hamilton Co. complaining about Verizon Wireless Music Center paying for all the cops. Seriously, how much gas does a vehicle burn if it is running for 8 hours?

Personally, I do understand your complaint. I would not do away with the take-home car program, but I would limit it to and from work. I would say that working in a police capacity providing security services is also work. I would let the officer use the car for that detail, but they can provide their own gas. The wear and tear/oil usage is minimal and I think worrying about that is nitpicking.

Advance Indiana said...

You should read the post before commenting. I do not oppose take-home cars. I oppose police officers renting themselves out to private security companies using our cars and equipment while in police uniform without any fair compensation back to the city for the use of those services. Many other cities charge a fee for rent-a-cop services. Indianapolis doesn't because the private security companies are owned by a group of ex-cops who wield considerable clout over our police department by getting to pick and choose who gets the plum assignments. There are police officers who know exactly what I talking about who agree entirely with me. The effort here isn't to take money out of the pockets of the officers performing this work; it's to take the city's fair share for the use of uniformed officers equipped with city-owned cars and equipment.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

"It's obvious our Republican mayor and council put the interest of the FOP and the private security companies over the taxpaying-public."

And I guess Bart Peterson (DEMOCRAT) who was mayor for EIGHT YEARS, must not have had time to address your problem, huh?

Jason said...

I see your point, AI, but at the same time I don't think you can have it both ways. You can't tell someone they have unlimited use of everything, EXCEPT when they're using it off-duty for what it was intended. Most part-time jobs don't involve sitting in a running car all night long, and it's a violation of general order to work a part-time job that involves any kind of driving patrol function. In addition, the amount the city pays per gallon of gas is NOT what the general consumer pays, not by a long shot. Nevertheless, the city asked IMPD to cut down on car useage during the summer, and IMPD's fuel consumption dropped by 15%.

If the city was that concerned about how money was being spent in regard to the patrol car issue, there are lots of things they could do that would be much more cost-effective and headache-free in the long run (i.e. not putting used alternators in officer's cars, not spending $6,000 to repair a car that's only worth half that, etc.) You make a good point about some retirees and current officers having huge contracts with a lot of these companies, but at the same time I find it hard to believe the guy that contracts security to say, Lilly, has more clout in this issue than Lilly itself. The companies that would fight this would have a lot more to say than the FOP or any retiree would. As wealthy as some of these folks have become, it's a drop in the bucket in comparison to what these car dealerships, Lilly's, bars, etc. pay out overall.

Remember how much 'clout' the FOP had several years ago during contract negotiations? Absolutely none. That hasn't changed much, aside from the city finally showing a little bit of good faith negotiating...

spooknp said...

I oppose police officers renting themselves out to private security companies using our cars and equipment while in police uniform without any fair compensation back to the city for the use of those services.
The effort here isn't to take money out of the pockets of the officers performing this work; it's to take the city's fair share for the use of uniformed officers equipped with city-owned cars and equipment.


The problem I see is that in today's sue anyone and everything, starting such a program would likely include so much paperwork, many of the businesses would just do away with it. While you claim not to want to take money away from officers, that is exactly what will happen:

#1: The city takes control of part-time/off-duty jobs. Is the city going to be able to pay the officers the same rate as the businesses do now?

#2: Not all businesses are hiring cops via private security companies owned by other cops. I know of at least two companies that are hiring the officers with no middle man, paying them directly with company paychecks and treating them as private contractors. I highly doubt these companies would want to deal with a ream of paperwork to get an IMPD officer.

#3: Related to the above, there is _nothing_ stopping these companies from hiring officers from other departments. There are constantly officers from small towns working traffic details in downtown Indy. The most recent one I saw was a police officer from Greens Fork!!

#4: I would like to see the true costs the city believes it is owed for the wear and tear on various pieces of equipment. Outside of gas, I don't see _any_ other equipment item that gets worn out that would be worth charging anything more than a penny a shift, if that. The Glock is going to last at least 10 years, depending on how often the officers shoots their weapon outside of mandatory training. The duty belts will last a pretty long time as well. The light bars will last fairly well, and when you factor in the hours working for the city vs. off-duty, the city couldn't really charge that much.

I see that if the city tries to grab this and nickle and dime the businesses, they will do the following:

#1: Hire cops other than IMPD officers.

#2: Hire armed security guards.

#3: Stop hiring any security and tell employees to dial 911 for _any_ and all troubles (911 calls from Broad Ripple should double on Fridays and Sat. nights) and have district cars deal with the issues. In this case, taxes will have to be raised because the city will either be stuck paying over-time and/or hiring more officers to deal with the added run loads.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Perhaps someone should find out why the sheriff has 1,000 vehicles.
His merit deputies went to IMPD, so all he should have is "building" deputies, "special" deputies, "civil" deputies, etc.
They didn't used to have take-home cars.
Did he give them all cars so he could still have a fleet of 1,000 deputies to do his political work for him?