Gasoline prices that continue to soar have forced Greencastle police officials to rethink a policy that allowed officers to drive their vehicles while not on duty.
Last March, the Greencastle Board of Works approved a plan allowing GPD officers to drive their patrol cars anywhere in Putnam and surrounding counties, regardless of whether they were on duty. But that has recently changed with the rise in fuel costs.
Police Chief Tom Sutherlin told the Board of Works Wednesday that gasoline expenditures have almost doubled since this time last year and that he has already scaled back the take-home vehicle policy.
Officers are no longer to drive their patrol vehicles outside the county, unless they are on duty or are on their way to training outside the county.
According to a chart presented by the chief Wednesday, fuel costs for the period of January through April were more than $22,000. The police department spent just more than $13,000 for fuel during the same period in 2007 (prior to the take-home policy being in place).
The chief and Board of Works members agreed the plan was costing too much money, but they also agreed that allowing officers to drive their patrol cars off duty is a deterrent to crime and it increases response times for officers called to duty at a moments notice.
Sutherlin told the council that if fuel costs continue to be a problem, he may restrict officers to drive their vehicle off-duty only within the city limits.
According to the policy that was approved in March of 2007, officers are allowed to drive their cars off duty inside Putnam County only. They are also required to obey all traffic laws and are prohibited from consuming any substances that would impair their driving while operating their police vehicles.
Only the police officers themselves are allowed to drive their vehicles and they are not allowed to transport any materials of a personal nature, such as alcohol, animals, or other conspicuous items, except in the performance of their duties as a police officer.
The policy reads, "At all times, the use of the police department owned/leased vehicle will be consistent with the high standards of the city of Greencastle, and nothing will be done with, or in, the vehicle that would in any way adversely affect the image or reputation of the city or the police department."
Officers are required to allow their passengers -- who are defined in the plan as family members only -- to exit the vehicle in the event of an emergency call. They cannot respond to an emergency call unless they have allowed their passengers to exit the vehicle first.