In a bid to make Superior a safer city, the police department could soon be allowing some officers to take their squad cars home.
The city's Finance Committee recently approved funding for the department to purchase three cars to kick-start the take-home fleet.
The program would assign one car, exclusively to a single officer, who must live in the city, and complete a probationary period.
Chief Nicholas Alexander says the program will keep the city safer, and cut back on costs for the department. He says it also will be a good recruiting and retention tool.
"The take-home vehicle will allow for a couple things. One, the officers who have them can respond directly from their home in a car," said Chief Alexander.
Officer Brad Esler, a 20+ year veteran of the force has experience with the program in years past.
"My neighbors really enjoy having a squad car parked in the neighborhood. We really don't have much for problems with traffic, because people know there's a police car there," said Esler.
Chief Alexander agrees, "Presence is the number one deterrent for law enforcement, and having more squads in neighborhoods, at officers homes and so on, does help increase the presence," he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Alexander says the Husky Refinery explosion was a reminder of the need for more squads.
"The size of our fleet is inadequate during an emergency situation. Certainly, during day-to-day operations, we do just fine. But, we had more officers coming in than we had cars for," he said.
The take-home squad program would alleviate that by purchasing three additional cars to add to the force. Because they're not run 24/7 and rotated between officers, the lifespan of a take-home squad goes from three years to as many as 10. Upfront, it won't be cheap to kick-start the program, as each car is estimated to cost nearly $60,000. The chief said the reduced wear and tear, leading to more longevity of the fleet means in the long run, it will be cheaper.
"Once we get enough vehicles into the take-home program, the goal would be that we could transition from buying four or five new cars a year to just a couple," said Chief Alexander.
The take-home program would also allow officers to be shift-ready much quicker. Chief Alexander says right now, officers require about 15 minutes before and after their patrol to log-in to their computers, cameras and other programs required for a patrol shift. Having a take-home vehicle would allow them to remain logged in, thus, cutting about 30 minutes off of each shift.
Officers would not be allowed to use the squads when off-duty for personal use.
Superior Mayor Jim Paine says he's in support of the program. He says the bill will be paid by the Capital Improvement Fund, which is made up of bonding dollars and the Oil Pipeline Terminal tax.
The purchase will be made in the next four weeks, pending city council approval. Chief Alexander says he thought now was a good time to present the idea to the city, as the department came in $150,000 under budget in 2017.
The three to five-year plan is to have roughly 20 take-home squads available for officers.