The City Council voted 4-0, with Chris Wizner absent Monday night, to change its policy regarding take-home cars, which will go into effect July 1.
Previously, officers were not allowed to take their cars home.
Mayor Patricia Vaughn said she is pleased with the vote.
“The council had done a great deal of research,” Vaughn said Monday after the council meeting. “They thought it through very carefully for several months. They made the right decision.”
Police Chief Charlie Sewell called the new policy a “step in the right direction to recruit and retain officers,” adding potential new hires often ask if the city has a take-home policy.
Sewell said the policy change will enable officers to get to an emergency faster.
“What it will do is allow the officers to respond to calls for service while en route to work, rather than having to go straight to the station and pick up equipment and then go to the call,” Sewell said.
It will also make officers more efficient, Vaughn said, because they won’t have to constantly change what car they use. She said it can take 30 to 45 minutes to load up their cars with equipment, which includes computers, ammunition and protective gear. “Their trunks are just full,” Vaughn said.
Officers will not be allowed to run errands while driving to and from work, and they cannot buy or transport alcohol in their cars. The officers are required to use their personal cars while off duty, the mayor said.
“Once they’re home, they’re parked,” Vaughn said.
Officers with take-home cars will have to pay $0.21 per mile to drive to and from their house if they live outside the city limits, but those who live inside the city limits can drive home for free. According to Sewell, about three officers would be exempt because they live in Powder Springs.
The city will pay to fill the cars with gas, the mayor said.
The police department has ordered four new cars, and both Vaughn and Sewell see the take-home policy as a way to cut down on mileage.
“Many of the cars (now) are running 24-7,” Vaughn said, explaining that once one police officer is done with a shift, another officer takes his or her car right back on the road.
Being the only person in charge of a patrol car can be a point of pride, too.
“When you have something you’re solely responsible for, you’re going to take better care of it,” Sewell said.
The department plans to give four new Ford Interceptors, which are expected to arrive at the beginning of August, to its four lieutenants. Then, the cars that previously belonged to the lieutenants, which are Dodge Chargers, will go to the four sergeants in the department.
In the future, the mayor said, the police plan to continue buying new cars so eventually, all 22 officers on the city’s police force will have take-home cars, although new officers will have to wait a year before they will be allowed to drive the patrol cars home.