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Change in home fleet policy for Lexington Police delayed

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced Monday afternoon that a proposal that would end the policy of off-duty police officers driving cruisers for personal use has been delayed.

The mayor said, "I am delaying the start of our policy change to allow for a solution that helps save money and also avoids potential negative impacts on public safety, police officers, and their families."

Mayor Gray said the issue will now go to collective bargaining.

"I have enormous respect for everyone who is in our public safety, 'cause they're out there every day on the front line. So it's tough to take a step like this knowing it's not going to be received well," Gray said of the original proposal.

Members of the Fraternal Order of Police say a change in policy would create a public safety issue.

They say they were notified about the policy change on Friday, in an email that said the city plans to modify the police home fleet plan, limiting the use of cruisers by off-duty officers.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said then he wanted the cars to only be used by officers coming and going to work, when they're not on duty.

FOP leaders say of the police cruisers seen out on the roads, two out of every three are likely being used by off-duty officers.

They say changing the policy will create a public safety issue because it will decrease visibility when the police department is already shrinking, and because off-duty officers respond to more than 5,000 calls each year.

FOP leaders say officers are obligated to be armed and have their radios on when they're driving cruisers off-duty, and they say those officers will head anywhere they're needed, even if they're not on the clock.

"Just an example, I got an email yesterday from an off-duty officer who says at 3:15 in the morning, he heard there was an Alzheimer's patient who was driving aimlessly and lost, and he found her and got her back to her family safely," FOP President Det. Mike Sweeney said.

Sweeney also says the first several officers to respond to a stabbing at a Lexington Walmart Friday were also off-duty officers.

Officials say Lexington police officers who live out of Fayette County must pay the city to drive their cars out of the county monthly.

When it comes to police cruisers, other cities in the region have much different policies.

Louisville does allow officers to take home cruisers and drive them for personal use, but only if they live in Jefferson County.

In Cincinnati, police cruisers are only taken home by special officials, like K-9 units and homicide detectives.

In Charleston, West Virginia, police say no officers there are allowed to drive cruisers for personal use.

In Knoxville, police officers can take their cruisers home if they live within a 25 mile radius of police headquarters.


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