Several months after the Greencastle Police Department implemented a new policy whereby officers can drive their patrol cars off duty, city officials agreed to let the program continue.
Board of Works members Sue Murray, Thom Morris and Mayor Nancy Michael received a three-month update on the program last week from Police Chief Tom Sutherlin.
According to information supplied to the board, the department used an additional 151 gallons of fuel, for the period of April through June, under the new "take-home policy," or $3,634 in additional fuel costs over the first three months of the 2007.
Murray did a quick calculation and said the extra fuel divides out to just under 10 gallons of additional gasoline for each of the police department's 16 vehicles.
The board approved Sutherlin's request to implement the program earlier this year to allow the department to be "more competitive" with what other agencies offer their officers.
Plus, Sutherlin noted at Wednesday's meeting, it increases the police department's visibility to the public, even when officers are not on duty.
"If they (drivers) see a police car out there, they don't know if they're on duty or not," Sutherlin said.
Additionally, Sutherlin said the new policy has allowed officers to respond to incidents when they are not on duty but are in the area.
"Our response times have increased a little," Sutherlin said.
Mayor Michael requested that Sutherlin continue to monitor the fuel costs and report back in another three months.
"I'll continue to monitor it," Sutherlin said.
Prior to the new policy going into place, Greencastle officers were not allowed to drive their patrol vehicles if they were not on duty. Under the new plan, they are allowed to drive their cars, whether on duty or off, anywhere in Putnam and adjacent counties.
Sutherlin said that if the fuel costs are determined to be too high, he could cut back the allowance to include just Putnam County or even the city limits.