COMMUTER CARS: Commuting pool grows and no change in policy envisioned any time soon.
Chelsea Boozer reports in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this mmorning
thatLittle Rock City Manager Bruce Moore
has developed a policy on take-home use of police cars
that would curb the practice somewhat. But it's not being implemented and it's not clear if it ever will be.
We reported last yea
r on the enormous size and cost of the take-home car program — 189 take-home cars, including 29 for undercover officers, with 141 going to residences outside the city. (Today's article indicates the number of commuter cars has grown to 219.) At that time, only 160 of 520 police officers lived in the city of Little Rock. The commuters — some of whom have cited crime and schools as reasons for living elsewhere — drove varying distances, but some more than an hour each direction. Police think having an assigned car helps response time. If your commute is an hour away, emergency response is not going to be speedy, however.
Moore, Boozer reports, has developed a policy that would allow commutes of no longer than 25 miles. But that limit wouldn't apply to those assigned to SWAT, Major Crimes Division, Special Investigations Division and the motorcycle unit.
This is all so much talk. Moore said the policy wouldn't be put in place until the department has addressed a recent increase in violent crime and filled several dozen vacancies.
"I think it's a good policy going forward, I just need to delay implementation," he said.
He offered no prediction on when it might be implemented. I'd predict never. Police Chief Kenton Buckner
is quoted as saying he's "comfortable" with who has a car in his agency.
As Moore says, a take-home car is a nice free perk of the job. It's also an incentive not to live in the city.
Commuter cars are a sign of a deeper problem: That is, most Little Rock police officers don't want to live in the city they are paid to protect, particularly white officers. Take-home cars would be a welcome sight IN the city as a crime deterrent, but fewer than 50 carry officers to Little Rock homes. At last count — during a debate over a residency requirement that was defeated by the City Board — only 75 of 354 white officers lived in the city. Of the 160 black officers, 99 lived in the city.
It is no wonder many on the City Board support widening freeways to get people to and from suburban homes faster. Maybe we should let city directors live in Cabot, too. Several have made it clear they don't think much of Little Rock schools either.