Chief: take-home car charge divides police - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chief: take-home car charge divides police

Posted: Updated:

By Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- SWAT Sergeant and Fraternal Order of Police local President Toby Hewitt is joining more than 260 Chattanooga Police officers; choosing to park rather than start paying to keep driving his squad car home.

"It'd cost me $200 a month, but it's more the principle of it," he says. 

The new policy will require officers who live within city limits to pay 20 cents for every mile's distance between their homes and the Service Center on Amnicola Highway. Officers living outside the city would pay 30 cents per mile.

The fees would take effect January 13. Less than a week away, Sgt. Hewitt isn't sure where his unit's new "home" will be.

"Obviously, we have to be mindful of the security of the vehicle and the equipment," he says. "You can't park just anywhere."

Hewitt and other FOP leaders guesstimate that the extra load will tax the Public Service and 911 Center lots beyond capacity. The city plans to open at least two lots. One, at 1815 East Main, has a chain-link fence with a controlled gate.

"We could go with it as it is," Mayor Ron Littlefield says.

Chief Bobby Dodd isn't certain.

"They assure me they're gonna have it in place by that time (January 13)," Dodd says, "But if not, the officers would continue to drive them home because I won't have them parked anywhere that's not secure."

Chief Dodd has even more questions about a policy the Mayor touts for the next budget year.

Littlefield has proposed charging for take-home cars only if officers live outside city limits. Chief Dodd, and more than half the force, do.

"I fully favor officers who live in the city having a take home car," Mayor Littlefield says. "It might encourage more of them to live here."

"Charge all of us, or charge none of us. Give the cars to us, or take them away," Chief Dodd says, "If you arbitrarily decide to charge officers who live in the county but not in the city, I think it causes division in the department."

In Tuesday's budget committee session, several City Council members questioned why city-dwelling officers couldn't get a break immediately.

"We can't afford it," Littlefield says. "As it is, we've been debating for six months about this."

So how might Chattanooga afford to restore free take-home cars, or establish extra incentives, to encourage officers to move into the city during the next fiscal year (beginning July 1)? 

"Every budget is different," Littlefield says, "We're looking to see what kind of revenues, and we have to reconstruct a budget every year, hopefully we'll find a way to do it."

Powered by Frankly