Lexington police cruisers for personal use debate continues

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - City leaders say it's a safety issue. They want Lexington police officers to be able to use their police cruisers for personal reasons.

Up until two years ago police officers were allowed to do that until the city's policy changed. But the Fraternal Order of Police has suspended its vote on the city's latest proposal.

It's a hot topic now, especially with the mayoral race and recent shootings in Lexington. And the fact that it affects everyone, not just those deciding on it, makes it that much bigger.

WKYT reporters see their fair share of Lexington police officers on a daily basis. But as an everyday citizen, are you seeing them as much?

"This is a highly, highly argued topic," said Jason Rothermund, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Lexington.

The home fleet program, if reinstated, could change how often you see these guys out and about.

"It's about visibility," said Councilman Kevin Stinnett. "It's about having them out there, but it's about safety."

The policy is now back on the table to get police cruisers back on the streets while officers are off duty.

"We have had police officers in this city that have been driving on their personal time a police vehicle and have saved lives," said Rothermund.

The FOP and mayor's office both tell us they want the home fleet program back, prioritizing public safety. In a statement, the mayor's chief of staff says, "Today, we all agree it is time for this benefit to be reinstated; and the City has been working with the union for six months to reinstate it because we believe there's value to our citizens."

"I feel like it's not just best for my officers," said Rothermund. "I think it's best for the community."

But the president of FOP says a comment made by the mayor's chief of staff has set back the process, suspending the vote.

"Basically it placed the blame for the home fleet not being on the streets solely on us when that decision was from demands for monetary savings and collective bargaining," said Rothermund.

That's why the program was shelved in 2012 which is the only time in the program's history.

"The savings were anticipated to be about $800,000 a year," said Stinnett. "Yesterday, it was reported that those savings were only $233,000 a year."

The mayor's office says, "At that time, during contract negotiations in 2012, the Police Union and the City agreed to a change in the police cruiser personal use benefit. It was the right thing to do at the time, and Police officers deserve praise for their efforts."

Now both parties are looking to get back on the right track to better the quality of life in Lexington.

The most recent proposal would be for police officers to pay $50 a month to use their cruisers for personal reasons. The president of the FOP says fee or no fee, they want the program back.

With the vote suspended, the FOP plans to reestablish communication with the mayor's office. That's to get the process going again, hoping to reinstate the home fleet program.

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