Taking to the streets while keeping them safer is easier for officers of the Brazil City Police Department since the implementation of the new take-home car program.
During this year, the BPD has obtained a total of $62,173.60 in federal drug seizure funds from past drug case investigations. The money was transferred to the Brazil City Police Department Law Enforcement Fund and is being used to purchase additional patrol cars for the program.
Eventually all 12 officers will drive take-home vehicles, and a pool car will be available when one of the primary cars is undergoing maintenance or repair work, BPD Chief Mark Loudermilk said. The department owns 10 vehicles and a pool car now.
"We'll be purchasing two more later this summer," he said. "We're getting used cars to start the program with."
Police cars have a life of about 100,000 miles, and the BPD is planning to replace two vehicles. In affluent communities, police departments regularly replace vehicles after only 40,000 miles.
"It's really helped already," Loudermilk said of the program. "It's like having extra people out."
A few weeks ago, off-duty officers used their take-home vehicles to assist officers handling a resistant person. Dispatchers can contact officers on their cell phones as they're needed, and with take-home vehicles, they can leave from their residences instead of being dropped off or driving personal vehicles to the station to ride along with other officers.
"We had five or six officers in cars there in minutes," he said. "The officers can be backed up so much quicker."
Without take-home cars, transporting officers from home to the station, then to the scene, can cost crucial minutes. The extra time can potentially reduce the value of the assistance when dealing with a narrow timeframe.
"It just really doesn't help a lot," Loudermilk said.
Police officers are often scheduled for court in addition to responding to calls. With the new program, if there is a major incident and additional manpower is needed, there is no downtime.
"They get in their cars, and they go right where they're told to go," he said.
Using a take-home car program promotes cost effectiveness. The city will not have to pay interest, and maintenance costs tend to be lower because officers care for their individual vehicles, Loudermilk said. Controlling mileage is easier because only one officer uses each car, rather than all officers using a few cars. Off-duty driving is limited, and there is no out-of-county driving.
"The vehicles will have fewer miles so they'll last twice as long. You don't have to replace the cars nearly as often," he said. "We anticipate them lasting longer. Once it's started, it's self-sufficient."
Getting started is often the most difficult aspect of implementing a new take-home car program in a town, Loudermilk said, because of the initial cost of vehicles. Approximately 90 percent of Indiana police departments use this type of program for patrol cars, he said. The trend has been to move to community-based policing, and some cities intentionally place officers with take-home cars in troubled neighborhoods to create a more visible police presence.
"That's one of the big plusses," he said.
The program has also served to boost officer morale, Loudermilk said, comparing sharing patrol cars to sharing desks or offices. Officers store their paperwork and equipment in the vehicles as other workers would their desks, which can pose a challenge when the work materials of 12 police officers are being shuffled among only a few patrol cars.
"It's a very positive thing here, and all the officers are really excited we can do this," Loudermilk said. "Your car is your office when you're a policeman."
What he said he likes best about the program is avoiding burdening taxpayers and law-abiding citizens with high costs. With federal drug seizure funds financing the program, money from local citizens won't be necessary.
"That's what's got us over the top. I'm just real excited we didn't have to put that burden on the taxpayers," Loudermilk said. "I really like it when we're able to do things like that. The main thing is I'm excited we can do it."