City auditors have found a new way to save money, but it’s bound to upset the Police and Firefighters unions. They’ve concluded that if the officers leave their police cars (and fire cars) in the municipal parking lot at night, it could save the city $630,000. The cost saving involves 90 police vehicles, from sedans to motorcycles, but also two cars driven by the deputy firefighter chiefs and one driven by an SJFD press information officer.  In some cases, the officers and firefighters live as far away as Monterey. It may be convenient to have them at hand, but driving them back and forth every night does come with a cost.

City Manager Debra Figone recognizes that restricting city vehicle use could save the city much-needed money—next year’s deficit is projected to be about $41 million dollars. On the other hand, she says that, “Focusing solely on cost savings may compromise the city’s ability to deliver public safety services at times of greatest need.” In other words, in the event of an emergency, it would be easier to have police and firefighters drive directly to the scene from their homes, instead of stopping off at the city lot first to pick up their official vehicles.

Unlike Figone, Councilmember Pete Constant agrees with this finding by the auditors. A former policeman himself, he says that when he served on the force, “cops used their own cars,” and cites the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake as an emergency in which motorcycles weren’t expected to show up from home on their bikes.

Furthermore, everyone agrees that round the clock access to city vehicles is important—for some officers, not all of them. Allowing police officers to commute by city vehicle ends up costing the city $900,000 in gas, maintenance, insurance premiums, and accelerated replacement costs.
Read More at the Mercury News.