ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Eyeing costs, Winter also wants a report prepared on the cost of vehicle fuel, crashes, replacements and maintenance
Albuquerque City Councilor Brad Winter wants the mayoral administration to look harder for ways to save money on police vehicles.
A proposal he drafted calls for developing a cost-reduction plan and evaluating whether officers who live outside Bernalillo County should still be able to take their cruisers home.
The take-home policy for police vehicles has come under council scrutiny in recent weeks as the city tries to address what could be a $54 million shortfall in next year’s operating budget, if no adjustments are made.
Winter said he hopes to introduce a resolution Monday calling for the administration to prepare a report within 30 days on the cost of vehicle fuel, crashes, replacements and maintenance.
The report also would look at the potential to use more pool vehicles — those that aren’t assigned to any one officer — and the circumstances under which officers could use their cruisers for personal activities, such as running errands.
The most controversial provision, however, is likely to be the call for an evaluation of “why vehicles should continue to be driven outside of” the county. Almost every member of the police force — including the 195 or so officers who live outside Bernalillo County — is allowed to take his cruiser home.
Some councilors want to know whether the vehicles used by out-of-town officers have to be replaced more frequently because of the extra mileage.
The “Take Home Car Plan” has been in place for at least 20 years and is intended to boost the visibility of the police force and increase the lifespan of cruisers.
Supporters say officers are more likely to keep up with maintenance if they drive the same vehicle every day. When cars are shared, they say, they wear out incredibly quickly from almost constant driving.
Winter said he simply wants to ensure the city’s policy is justified by public safety and is not a “perk” of being an officer.
Darren White, Albuquerque’s public safety director, responded to the bill with a short statement released by his office.
“As a part of the budget process,” he said, “we will be reviewing all programs to address the city’s budget deficit.”
The city needs $8 million to $10 million a year to keep up with replacement of police vehicles, according to a council estimate. Albuquerque’s total operating budget, which covers most city departments, is around $475 million a year.