Sgt. Arvo Bowen has been assigned one of the eight new vehicles purchased by the Covington Police Department as they commence the Assigned Officers program. - Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON — Covington Police officers are getting some snazzy new rides, which Chief Stacey Cotton foresees will have multiple benefits in the fight against crime.
The department took delivery recently of eight new Dodge Chargers, which are the first vehicles that will be used in the new Assigned Officer program.
“The City Council approved that we could start purchasing cars and assign them to officers. Then as we continue to buy cars over the next three to four years, they will be assigned to officers so that eventually every sworn officer will have their own vehicle,” Cotton explained, adding that he believes the program is a smart way to spend money on vehicles.
The CPD has a fleet of approximately 30 vehicles that are rotated among the shifts and are constantly in use.
“Now the cars are shared by the officers. That car rides on all shifts,” Cotton said. “The difference will be that today a car might last us 24 months because it is constantly in use. It never stops,” he said. “(With the new program), a car will be driven by one officer and not driven as many miles in its lifespan, so we believe the car will last six, maybe seven years. Obviously these cars won’t be used as much because they’ll be resting when the officer is resting and off duty. If you extend the life of the vehicle, you get more money out of the investment. I think the City Council picked up on where I was coming from on this.”
Cotton said the new Chargers were delivered fully loaded and ready for the officer to go to work, already equipped with such amenities as laptops, cameras, screens, striping, light bars, emergency equipment and radios. The cost was between $43,000 and $44,000 each. The cars were purchased locally at Ginn-Chrysler, which had the low bid. They were paid for with forfeited drug funds.
“Taxpayers didn’t pay a dime for any of this stuff,” he pointed out. “They seem to be good cars. I think Chrysler has fixed some of the problems they had on their early models with police package vehicles. It’s built and designed to be a police car. I think it’s going to be a pretty good vehicle for us.”
Cotton said the Assigned Officer program has many advantages and the CPD is one of the few departments of its size in metro Atlanta that doesn’t already have such a program.
“By assigning the car to an individual officer, it creates accountability,” he said. “He knows he’s responsible. Currently, we might hear, ‘The car was fine when I left it,’ and the next guy finds that something is wrong with it,” for example some sort of damage, lack of service or dirtiness and it’s difficult to assign blame.
Another plus is that during shift change, there will automatically be a heightened police presence on the streets.
“You have the cars that are currently on patrol in the city and then you have a fleet of cars coming in at shift change. Say an officer is coming to work and once he hits the city limits he sees a violation or there’s a bad call, he’s ready. He can go on to the call,” Cotton said.
Also, during emergency situations that might require that additional officers be called in to work, there will be an advantage.
“They can bring their cars and go straight to their posts that we assign them without having to come in to the station,” he said. “For example, if there’s a major disaster, we might have to put two to three people in a car just to get them out somewhere. This way, we will eventually be able to send cars wherever we need and the officers will be able to be transported there to and from.”
Lastly, Cotton pointed out that recruitment of new officers could benefit from the program, as often potential officers want to know if there is a Assigned Car program when deciding which agency they will work for.
“If you’re working in another agency, or if you’re trying to figure out which agency you want to go to, which one would you choose if the pay is relatively the same? We think we have a great police department and a great place to work, but you don’t know that until you come to work here,” he said. “You have to look at it like an enticement on the front end and the going thing in law enforcement now is to provide that vehicle.”
Cotton said the department will move into the program slowly.
“The down side to the thing is the upfront cost and buying that many cars and that much equipment at one time is obviously costly, so we’re going to step into it,” he said. “But stepping into it is not necessarily a bad thing because you don’t want to go out and buy 35 cars at one time and then six or seven years from now, you’ve got to buy 35 more. I’d rather stagger it over a period of time.”