Patterson police chief wants officers to have cars off duty
Police Chief Patrick LaSalle said crime is rising and if the City Council wants his department to meet the challenges of protecting the city head on, he needs to be able to allow his eight special response officers to take their units home.
“I would like to sit here and tell you things are wonderful, but they are not. As Patterson grows, crime will increase,” LaSalle said. “We need to continue the proactive policies of the last 20 years. The members of the special response team need to immediately be able to respond tactically with all their equipment.”
LaSalle made those comments to the council as it continued Monday afternoon to deliberate in workshops on how they will address policies in the new employee handbook. Mayor Rodney Grogan, who was not at the workshop, grounded police units of officers living outside the city limits at the end of their shifts effective Sept. 19.
Steve Bierhorst, director of public works, said the city has realized a savings of about 1,000 gallons of fuel monthly after the policy was instituted. He said he gave an analysis of fuel usage for police vehicles beginning in January before the units had to be parked at the end of the shift and compared it to the usage the month after the policy change.
The report, a copy of which was given to The Daily Review, extrapolates from a one-month savings after the policy, that the police department could save nearly $40,000 annually in fuel and maintenance expenses if the cars remain in the city when officers get off work.
Determining what fuel consumption the police department will use is best left to the discretion of the police chief, LaSalle said after the meeting. Even if the department spent that much more on fuel, it was part of his budget which he controls, he said. The expense does not concern him as much as the loss of his department’s ability to maintain a constant state of preparedness to respond quickly to any scenario of crimes.
“This is not something I am reinventing,” LaSalle said. “It is something that is being utilized throughout the state.”
Events in recent months demonstrate crime is on the rise, LaSalle said.
“In the past two months we have had 12 incidents of gunfire when we had 35 incidents all of last year; we have had 22 incidents of domestic violence in the past two months compared to 48 all of last year,” LaSalle said. “This is not the time to be cutting down on our presence.”
Most of the eight officers for whom he is requesting a police unit while off duty live within a few miles or even blocks of the city limits but others live in Baldwin and Franklin, LaSalle said.
Councilmen Charles Sawyer and John Rentrop asked if there could be an incentive to either hire people to be police from within the city or an incentive to get them to live in the city. Sawyer said having police living in the city would help with the police car policy as well as response time if they were needed while off duty.
That would be an ideal situation, LaSalle agreed, but it would take additional financial incentives.
The bulk of the workshop was spent discussing the policy the city will pursue regarding police unit usage, but there was no discussion on the usage of other city automobiles.
The council discussed a policy for providing cell phones to certain city employees or reimbursing them for using their own cell phones. There appeared to be a consensus that the policy would state that the city will provide a monthly stipend of $35 to some city employees and $50 to police officers for using their own cell phones for city business.
City Attorney Russel Cremaldi asked if the council wanted to include language explaining what actions will be taken when city policy is broken.
“I would suspect the mayor has the authority to discipline, but not removal,” Cremaldi said of individuals who are appointed by the mayor with the council’s approval. The elected chief of police could make recommendations regarding police, but it would be the mayor who would determine if they are to be fired, he said.
LaSalle added that while the mayor would be the one to determine if an officer is fired, the chief of police has the sole discretion to determine if he remains an officer.
“If he does something wrong, I can take his commission and he can work for the water plant but not for the police,” LaSalle said.
Councilwoman Sandra LaSalle said she wanted specific language “in black and white” that stated what discipline can be administered and the consequences of certain actions.
Cremaldi is to present a proposed policy on the police cars and resolutions covering credit card usage, cell phone usage and social media policy for City workers at today’s council meeting.
Other items on the agenda include adoption of contracts with the city attorney and city engineers. There is also an agenda item regarding Progressive Waste Solutions.