Oregon’s Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office recently announced it is revising its policy to enable each deputy to have their own vehicle to take home at the end of their shifts.
Government Fleet contacted Sergeant Jayson Janes, public information officer for the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, to dig a little deeper into the decision to discover why the department made the move.
The department will be spending more than $1.1 million to purchase 32 vehicles and about $670,000 to prepare and upfit them. According to Janes, 25 of the 32 vehicles purchased will be used for patrol. The other vehicles were designated for other divisions. The new vehicles include Dodge Chargers and Durangos and Ram 1500s.
The department’s fleet consists of approximately 231 vehicles. These vehicles are used by patrol, jail, search and rescue, special services, detectives, and its civil division. As older vehicles are replaced with newer vehicles, older vehicles are auctioned off.
Making the Decision
Janes said the decision to assign patrol cars to deputies and have them take them home was made for several reasons. The Sheriff’s Office reviewed a study done by the Clackamas County, Oregon, Sheriff’s Office in reference to their assigned vehicle accountability program.
The study showed by assigning each deputy their own patrol vehicle, it increased service life, improved the efficiency of their patrol deputies, reduced response times to critical incidents, and enhanced the visibility of law enforcement in the community.
On top of this, the useful life of the patrol cars nearly doubled, from 70,000 to 120,000 miles, and from three to seven years, according to a report from KTVZ.
“Our office has worked four 12 hours shifts consisting of two-day shifts (6:00 am – 6:00 pm) then two night shifts (6:00 pm – 6:00 am) for over 20 years. At the end of the last night shift, deputies would then pick up their car partner in order for them to start their first day shift. The oncoming deputy would drive the night shift deputy home, then start their own shift. This would work as long as there were no major calls during shift change,” he explained.
The decision was made to assign patrol deputies their own cars to extend the life of the vehicles. It also makes it easier to fill overtime shifts or have off-duty deputies respond to critical incidents. For the mental and physical health of its staff, the department is evaluating different schedules and everyone having their own vehicle makes this scheduling process easier.
“Also, in a time where it is hard to recruit quality people into this profession, it is also a benefit that can be used for recruiting,” he said.
While the department hasn’t conducted the program long enough to relay solid information on return on investment, it has seen overtime shifts get filled easier due to everyone having their own vehicle. The shift change is also easier due to not having to pick up a car partner and drop the other partner off at home before starting the shift.
Janes feels one of the reasons the program works well is because deputies feel a stronger sense of ownership toward their assigned vehicles. It’s also makes it easier to hold an individual accountable for neglecting to bring the vehicle in for routine maintenance.
So far, the department reports it has not experienced any issues with having take-home vehicles.
“The only advice I have is do your research and determine if it is cost effective and beneficial for your office to assign patrol staff their own vehicles,” he noted.