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Mayor Temporarily Reinstates Police Cruiser Policy

Josh James

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray took executive action Friday to temporarily allow police offers to use city-owned vehicles for personal errands.

The move comes as the department works to contain a recent wave of violent crime in the community.

Gray's executive order stipulates that the personal-use privileges will come at no cost to officers. The mayor told reporters Friday any extra costs the city will incur are worth the increased visibility.

"What we have said is that during this period when the level of anxiety may be greater, especially among our citizens, we need to do all we can to illustrate the police presence in our city," he said.

The program had been eliminated in 2012 as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

And while the union and the city have been negotiating for six months to reintroduce the policy, the process hit a speed bump Wednesday when FOP president Jason Rothermund suspended a vote on a plan that would tack on a $50 monthly charge for officers taking part. The FOP charged that a city official had "contaminated" the process by laying blame on the police department for the cuts.

Friday, Rothermund said it will take more than an executive order to prove the city is serious about public safety.

"I understand the political heat that you can get during an election season, so I understand why this is being done. And if you really want to get to the core of it, why is this temporary? If we have a surplus in this city, why is this temporary? We can't say that we prioritize pubic safety and not prioritize public safety," he said.

Mayor Gray says police union negotiators were given multiple cost-cutting options in 2012 and chose to scale back the personal-use policy for cruisers. Yet, the move only saved the city close to $280,000 a year – just a fraction of the $800,000 originally projected.

The executive order will expire when the mayor’s office is satisfied that the uptick in crime has subsided.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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