The Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Police Department is growing its patrol fleet in hopes of starting a take-home vehicle program, a move that the city administration hopes attracts more officers.
Losing Officers to Departments with Take-Home Programs
A police department spokesperson told Government Fleet that the department is competing with other law enforcement agencies for officer candidates. Departments around Alabama are offering take-home vehicles as part of their package to officers. Tuscaloosa PD has lost officers to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, with some officers listing getting a car as one of the draws to making that move.
WBRC reported that the police department is short around 30 officers.
About the New Take-Home Program
The purchases for the take-home program will cost $3 million up front, and $1.5 million each year after that, a move that was approved by the city council earlier this month. The up-front cost should pay for 40 new vehicles. The annual cost is expected to cover fleet replacement — with 16 new Tahoes at $74,000 each after upfitting costs, five unmarked vehicles at $45,000 each, and two Harley Davidson motorcycles at $30,000 per year.
Tuscaloosa PD is currently waiting for 34 new Chevrolet Tahoes to be delivered. The department expects to receive more than half of them over the summer. The combination of the already ordered vehicles and the ones the department just received approval to purchase will amount to it having enough vehicles for a take-home program for every patrol officer.
The department expects to see some maintenance and operational savings, but the savings won't amount to the cost of the new vehicle purchases. The spokesperson explained that the vehicles are expected to last longer because officers tend to take better care of their assigned vehicles than they do with pool vehicles. Currently, the vehicles in the motor pool are driven continuously throughout the day -- with three 8-hour shifts per day assigned to each vehicle. Some of the department's motor pool vehicles are nearly 10 years old. Seventeen of those vehicles will be taken off the streets beginning in fiscal year 2024 due to safety concerns.
The department began phasing out maroon, yellow, and black decals on its vehicles about a year or so ago. Newer vehicles in the fleet, as well as the ones approved for purchase, will have a newer color scheme and decal featuring blue, silver, and black.
Officers will be required to keep vehicles within 25 miles of headquarters, and will be required to stop if they’re in a marked unit and pass someone who needs help or if they hear a call come over the radio.
Becoming a Competitive Workplace
City Council President Kip Tyner told WBRC that giving more officers take-home cars would boost morale in the department, be a major selling point for new recruits, and have the potential to increase public safety.
Tyner believes the increase in patrol vehicles in neighborhoods will serve as a crime deterrent.
“This investment is needed to help us hire the best candidates we can, so we can maintain the high level of service our citizens expect from the police department. Take-home vehicles have become standard at departments everywhere, so it’s something we needed to do to stay competitive," Police Chief Brent Blankley said.
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