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Last week, Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad instituted a new policy requiring new officers to wait three years instead of only one before being allowed to have a take-home patrol car. This was in response to budget cuts that have forced the department to cut expenditures for new cars.
Metro Council member Tina Ward-Pugh supported the decision, saying "we just don't have the money," and as far as that statement goes, I agree with her.
However, in a follow-up comment she said she doesn't believe take-home cars serve any purpose in deterring neighborhood crime. And that's where I disagree.
Who doesn't feel at least a bit more secure when a police cruiser is parked in the driveway of a home down the block? And who thinks the presence of a police car on the road – even if it's being driven to Wal-Mart on an officer's off-hours – doesn't cause surrounding drivers to be more attentive?
Having said that, you can't spend money you don't have, and that's why I think Chief Conrad is right in his decision. For now. But unlike Ms. Ward-Pugh, I think that when times get better – and they will – the general public will benefit from providing even more take-home cars for our officers.
Financial realities make it necessary to delay even good ideas from time to time. But let's make sure this one isn't completely abandoned.