The Duluth City Council Monday (Jan. 14) expanded the range that Duluth Police officers now will be allowed to take their police cars home when they’re off duty. Officers were only allowed to take their police vehicles home if they live within four statue miles of the Duluth Police Department. This has been expanded now to 26 statute miles.
Duluth Police Chief Randy Belcher requested the policy change. The council had asked for additional information including where officers lived at the December meeting. City Manager Tim Shearer had initially presented Belcher’s request since the chief was on vacation at that time.
Belcher cited police vehicle take home policies in effect for other nearby cities:
- Lilburn – 26 statute miles outside the city limits
- Suwanee – 20 statute miles outside the city limits
- Norcross – 30 statute miles outside the city limits
- Lawrenceville – 15 statute miles outside Gwinnett County
- Snellville – 8 statute miles outside the city limits
- Loganville – 20 statute miles outside the city limits
Seven Duluth police officers live in the city limits and drive their police cars home, Belcher reported to the council. The policy change would allow about 25 officers who live outside the four-mile limit to drive their police vehicles home. Only three officers live outside the 26-mile limit, he said. (Some officers such those in the CID (Criminal Investigation Division) and other special details are exempt from the requirement and are allowed to take their police vehicles home.)
The expanded police vehicle take home policy would improve police officer morale and enhance recruiting efforts, the chief said. “The first thing candidates usually ask,” he said, “is if officers are allowed to take their police vehicles home.”
The change would also allow police offices to respond more quickly in emergency situations.
Since officers park their personal cars in the parking lot at the Duluth Public Safety Center when they pick up their police vehicles, allowing officers to take their police vehicles home would free up parking spaces for the public to use, Belcher also said. This would be helpful on busy court days, he said.
The amended policy would also reduce the cost incurred by the city when officers have to appear in court in Lawrenceville, Belcher said. Officers often have to drive past Lawrenceville to Duluth to pick up their police cars then back to Lawrenceville when they have court appearances, he said. This costs the city $96 compared to $64 if they drive their police cars from home to court, Belcher said. Last year, 1,274 subpoenas were issued for officers to appear in court, he said.
The savings would help to offset increased gasoline costs, estimated at $10,000 to $15,000 a year.
The policy change was unanimously approved by the council after the chief provided them with the additional information. The council also decided to allow the three officers who live outside the 26-mile limit to take their police vehicles home if they reimburse the city for the extra gasoline used or fill up the gas tank once a week. This is similar to a practice in effect in Norcross, Belcher said.