The Urban County Council on Tuesday reviewed a new collective bargaining contract with the police department that is projected to save millions of dollars during the next four years, in large part by doing away with the program allowing officers to use their cruisers freely while off duty.
The city and Fraternal Order of Police Bluegrass Lodge No. 4 reached the agreement earlier this month after negotiating for a year.
The contract is projected to save $4.475 million compared to the last contract, said attorney Don Crain, who negotiated the contract on behalf of the city. He gave a report to council members at Tuesday's work session.
The majority of savings, about 72 percent, will come from new restrictions in personal use of fleet vehicles. Under the new contract, off-duty officers will be allowed to drive their city-owned cruisers to and from work only. The savings will amount to $800,000 a year, or $3.2 million over the life of the contract, Crain said.
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An officer may pay $50 a month to drive their cruisers to and from a second job. Officers who live in any of the six adjoining counties will have to pay 25 cents a mile for the first 10 miles outside Fayette County and 50 cents a mile after that to drive their cruisers home.
The city will track costs of gasoline, tires and repairs to determine whether the projected savings materialize, said Ryan Barrow, director of budgeting.
Each of Lexington's 502 sworn police officers has an assigned vehicle.
Changes in the home fleet program were proposed by the police union, Crain said. "It was understood in the FOP leadership this was best for the community."
Mike Sweeney, president of the FOP, said later that the public would see "a diminished presence of police officers. You will see no cruisers out there because right now three out of five cruisers are operated by off-duty officers."
When driving their cruisers while off-duty, officers are required to be armed, have their radios on and respond to emergencies if needed, Sweeney said. In exchange, they may drive their cruisers anywhere in Fayette County.
Lexington initiated the program during the 1970s to increase police visibility and have more officers available for emergencies. The contract will be on the June 7 council docket for first reading. It must receive two readings. If approved , the contract takes effect July 1.