MIAMI - Should a Miami Dade police officer be allowed to drive his patrol car home, across the state, to Naples in Collier County? Local 10 has learned three Miami-Dade officers do just that.
It's 121 miles one way, 242 miles round trip and 1,210 miles a week to get to work. That's $10,000 in gas for just one officer to get to and from work a year.
You can't blame the officer behind the wheel; the department allows this.
Some Miami-Dade commissioners are shocked.
"It's disgusting. It is absolutely disgusting," said Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell.
"There is no reason, no legitimate return for the taxpayers of Miami-Dade to send vehicles and resources to far-reaching places like Naples, Fla.," said Commissioner Sally Heyman.
Local 10 has also learned 10 officers drive their Miami-Dade police cars home to Palm Beach County. As of August, a total of 2,650 marked and unmarked Miami-Dade police cars go home with officers.
According to information provided to Local 10 by the department, 2,161 officers live in Miami-Dade, 472 live in Broward County, 10 live in and drive to Palm Beach County, four officers live in Monroe County and three live in and drive across the state to Collier County.
The mayor's office said total take-home costs in gas, insurance and maintenance are close to $7 million a year in tax money. Total take-home costs for the cars that go out of Miami-Dade County are $1.4 million in tax money per year.
At a time when the department is facing layoffs, wouldn't money spent on allowing officers to take the cars out of Miami-Dade be better spent keeping officers on the force?
"No interview will be granted on this topic," said Lt. Rosanna Cordero-Stutz.
The president of the Police Benevolent Association, John Rivera, said take-home cars save taxpayers money. Rivera said the take-home cars increase police visibility and deter crime and that police cars last longer, saving money in the long run.
When Local 10 asked Rivera about cars going to Palm Beach and Collier Counties, he said, "We may need to re-examine that. I didn't even know we had people living in Collier County."
The Police Patrol Vehicle Program, or PPVP, which allowed officers to take police vehicles home, was established in 1991 to increase police visibility, improve response time, reduce maintenance costs, increase vehicle longevity and improve operation efficiency.
"The practice has gone on too long. It outlived its original intent as an incentive to get people to come to counties or government positions when there was great competition. Now, there isn't," Heyman said.
Miami-Dade police Director James Loftus is proposing a $25 a week fuel surcharge, across the board, for officers with take-home vehicles.
But Mayor Carlos Gimemez said officers who drive out of the county should pay more.
"We have to be compensated for that, and we will look at that. Like I said, there will be different levels depending on where you live," Gimenez said.
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