The Public Safety Committee discussed firefighters and police officers using city vehicles to go to sporting events, QuikTrip, a drive-through or home, as a result of that use of a city vehicle, at their meeting on Thursday.
Human Resources Manager Julie Echols said when the committee determines what qualifies as an approved city event, then a policy can be written. She said it’s covered in the handbook now, but it’s vague.
She researched other communities, and said Frontenac and Clayton encourage their crews to go out and participate in community events.
Harper agreed that community events are OK for the use of city vehicles.
“This was being used for a personal event, not a community event,” he said. “That’s the difference, there’s a clear distinction.”
Committee member, Alderman Tom Kramer asked Fire Chief Ted Jury his opinion, and Jury declined.
“This is just the way business is done here,” he said. “The fire department, police department always attended events like this in various different forms.”
Brentwood Police Chief Steve Disbennett said anytime officers are in the community they’re representing the city, and are being watched.
“The citizens, they’re the ones that are going to tell me that they didn’t think it was right that a police officer was in a place in town where they shouldn’t be,” he said.
He said the police department addresses incidents like this on an individual basis. There’s no set policy.
Kramer asked, if an officer goes to a drive-through, or home to get something, does he log in with the dispatcher to say he’s out of service, or is he always in service?
Disbennett said only a few officers live in town, and they’re the only ones allowed to go home, or others can make a quick in-town trip. He said otherwise, they log out for personal time. He said the department has to know where they are all the time.
“It’s a fine line,” Disbennett said. “They’re out of service, but in service. They’re never really out of service, because if an emergency occurred, I don’t care if you’re eating, that has to be dropped.”
Kramer said a police officer at a soccer game, who is still in service, still has a radio on, and close to his vehicle where he could respond in a quickly, is different than someone not paying attention, and not able to respond quickly to an emergency.
“I hear what Alderman Harper is saying,” Kramer said, “but we don’t want our emergency safety employees to be so constrained, that they cannot be in different parts of the city where they may know the people involved.”
Kramer said he’s in favor of an officer or firefighter at an event with a city vehicle if he or she can still respond to an emergency, if not, he’s against it.
Alderman Lee Wynn, the chairman of the committee, said a vehicle should be easily available if it’s at a sporting event. He also said Harper made a good point.
“I think we should be very careful about allowing vehicles to be used that way,” he said. “There’s a difference between a city function and a personal function.”
The entire committee wasn’t there, and Wynn said they should wait for a full committee to make any decision.