The Syracuse Police Department is about to order 45 new police vehicles to upgrade its aging and run-down fleet. Common councilors unanimously approved the $1.6 million in spending, but not without some discussion about the number of cars that go home with officers on a routine basis.
Councilor Kathleen Joy said it appears Police Chief Frank Fowler has followed through on his promise to reduce the number of cars that go home as circumstances allow.
“He was doing it as people retire because there’s some union issues with that too – because it’s part of their compensation package. So, it’s never meant to be a punishment to the police department,” Joy said. “Clearly, they need the tools that they need to keep us safe, including police cars. We still have a concern that there are cars that go home for family use.”
For that reason, Joy said, over the past few years, the council has been reluctant to approve unmarked vehicles.
The police department has roughly 350 cars in its fleet, but that can fluctuate, said Sergeant David Sackett. “Every day is another experience. And if an officer brings a car in, I get a phone call from my garage supervisor that says ‘Sorry, can’t do anything with this. It’s a hazard to drive.’”
As long as it’s safe and financially feasible, the department tries to keep cars going – even welding in new floorboards as they rust out, Sackett said. The oldest cars in the fleet are 10 years old. Most go to auction when they’re no longer fit for duty.
Even though the council has given the department the green light to order new vehicles, Councilor Jake Barrett wants to hold a committee meeting to ask more questions, he told the sergeant and other police officials at yesterday’s meeting.
“I know you’re exasperated with the process,” Barrett said. “But you defend the safety of our people, we defend the money of our people. And for that reason, I’ll be talking to you within the next couple of weeks.”