Wednesday, July 23, 2008

134 Metro police cars parked to save gas

By KATE HOWARD • Staff Writer (Tennessean)• July 22, 2008 The Metro Police Department has parked 134 cars to comply with the mayor’s call to reduce the fleet and save money on gas. With the largest fleet of cars in the city, the police department made the biggest cut. More than 10 percent cut of their fleet of 1,292 vehicles are now parked in a lot off Murfreesboro Road with the keys turned into Metro government. According to a list provided by Metro police, many cars belong to school resource officers who will now be required to drive personal cars to their jobs at local high schools instead of marked patrol cars. Many of the remaining cuts are detectives’ vehicles, patrol cars and vans used for SWAT or evidence collection, and motorcycles used to patrol the downtown. Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said that many of the cars were backup vehicles or cars that department heads thought would be the least likely to affect their core function of patrolling the streets."There's an impact to the extent that there was a loss of some extra vehicles at the precincts, but as far as impacting zone cars in the patrol function, there's not," Aaron said. Mayor Karl Dean in June called for the parking of about 400 cars citywide, for a potential gas savings of up to $1.4 million. At Metro police, the decisions on what vehicles to park were left up to the commanders of each division, according to Aaron. There are also 47 cars that are no longer being taken home by staffers, Aaron said.But patrol officers who live within Davidson County are still allowed and encouraged to take their cars home to their neighborhoods, for readiness in case of an emergency and a deterrent to criminals.While school resource officers have lost their vehicles, Aaron said precinct commanders are working out fixes so every high school has a marked car in the lot once school is back in session. Middle schools may not, he said. Michael Craddock, Metro councilman and chairman of the public safety committee, said he is worried about the impact the cuts may have on the city’s safety.“We just graduated 46 officers Thursday night,” Craddock said. “What are they going to ride in? I’m extremely concerned right this moment that we’re taking police cars off the street. Until I receive an explanation of this, I’m extremely concerned.”Aaron said there's no loss of force on the city's streets, and they have not moved any officers to bike or foot patrols. He said there's no need to worry about new officers, either; trainees work in two-person cars for their first five months, and their needs will be addressed when the time comes. The police will also be adding 86 new cars by September. Some will replace wrecked or inoperable cars, but about 35 will be replenished stock.The Nashville Fire Department also parked 33 of their 329 vehicles and cut their take-home car assignments nearly in half, from 53 to 30, according to information from the mayor's office.But no ambulances or fire trucks are among the cuts, Nashville Fire spokesman Charles Shannon said. Most of their parked cars were also backups.

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