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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Snellville Police Off Duty Vehicle Expenditures - Who Pays?

In the past, I'd see Snellville Police officers helping with traffic on Sunday mornings in front of First Baptist Church on Main Street and wondered, "What's the deal? Why are they getting preferential treatment?!?"  It's embarrassing to admit this now, but I kind of had the impression that that church "owned" the town.

I didn't know that the officers were working an off-duty job. You might also see officers working security for movie theaters. Once I knew it was off-duty work and the churches and businesses paid for it, I let my concerns rest.  But someone recently asked me about it  through My Snellville Blog's Twitter account and wondered, "OK, but who pays for the fuel and the vehicle use during the off-duty job?"  Hmm, I thought. Scratching my chin thoughtfully, I decided to find out to get the full answer about how that all works.

I decided to go to the man who would know, Chief Roy Whitehead of the Snellville Police Department. Here is his answer:

"The Snellville Police Department has an 8-mile limit for taking vehicles home with a very few exceptions for people who are on emergency call back assigned to specific units. Most jurisdictions have a much more liberal policy than ours. Only thirty-three of our sworn officers take vehicles home; the rest live outside the geographic limit and are prohibited from taking them home. In addition, we require officers who drive vehicles home, drive them to court, training or an off-duty job, must go in service and be subject to call. They respond as primary or backup units for calls for service when in this status. They make traffic stops as appropriate and make arrests, issue citations or warnings when and where warranted. All of this information is compiled, analyzed and has resulted in a positive cash flow for the city.

However, officers working off-duty or coming to or from work serve as a force multiplier increasing our visibility and resources substantially. Studies show that agencies with high visibility and who actively enforce traffic laws have lower crime rates. This is evidenced by our continued drop in crime to a level as low as that in 2003. Off-duty officers have been the first to respond to robberies in progress, burglaries as well as other crimes and have made arrests that we may well not have made otherwise. Officers going home have made traffic stops for violations resulting in the apprehension of numerous fugitives. It is also impossible to measure the savings generated by on-duty officers not having to drive to or handle some calls for service. These intangible benefits, along with the inability to measure crimes prevented by their presence, are all sufficient to justify the use of these vehicles even if their use did not result in a positive cash flow to the city. However, the expenses are significantly less than the revenue generated by utilizing the vehicles in this manner. There are other reasons in addition to the ones enumerated above.

We continue to monitor vehicle use and gasoline prices. Should prices continue to rise or we get to a point where we are no longer in a positive cash flow situation, we will look at adjusting the hourly rate or implementing some other mechanism to ensure that this program continues to benefit our citizens as well as our officers."

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