Rocky Fork Enterprise

Income-tax issue

Police tout cruisers as 'critical tools'


Gahanna Division of Police leaders recently gave a presentation to Gahanna City Council, emphasizing the importance of maintaining its vehicle fleet and equipment.

City staffing levels and equipment for all departments, including the police force, are at "considerable risk" pending the outcome of a city income-tax request on the May 7 ballot, according to Mayor Becky Stinchcomb.

If approved, Gahanna's Issue 4 would increase the city's income-tax rate from 1.5 to 2.5 percent. If the rate increase is approved, the city's tax credit also would increase from 83.3 to 100 percent via Gahanna City Council action.

Deputy Police Chief Ken Bell said the vehicle fleet is the most important tool in the police division's toolbox.

"It's a critical tool for us in doing what we do for the citizens of Gahanna," he said.

Lt. Jeff Spence, administrative bureau commander, said the vehicles serve as offices for police eight to 10 hours a day. He said the majority of the police vehicle fleet is funded through the city's general fund.

The division's first vehicle rotation in three years was funded in 2012 through the city's capital improvements plan. Subsequent vehicle rotations are included in the city's five-year plan.

Spence said periods without vehicle rotations significantly affect long-term budgeting.

Currently, 19 police vehicles are typical cruisers.

The most recently purchased cruisers are part of a Dodge Charger police package purchased at the lowest possible price, Spence said.

"We partner with government entities to bring costs down," he said.

He said all secondary components are selected to minimize service-related down time and to maximize vehicle performance.

Cruisers are equipped with enhanced data connectivity (hardware and software) that exceeds 2014 law-enforcement fleet security standards.

Spence said officers in the field have access to such features as complete in-car report generation, silent dispatching, Ohio crash reporting, records and cross-agency searches from participating agencies and property/evidence management all in near-real time.

The cruisers also have fully integrated digital-video-recording capability with two on-board cameras, embedded GPS and back-end electronic storage.

"Safety is our No. 1 concern," Spence said. "We've been contacted by Indiana police, Whitehall and Columbus. They want to know our package, so we must be doing something right."

He said individual employees have vehicle assignments to increase accountability.

Spence said life cycle management is key. On average, he said, division vehicles travel 400,000-plus miles per year fleetwide. Nearly 40,000 annual calls for service are handled by responding units. He said the average life expectancy of a marked police unit is three years or 100,000 miles.

Because of the importance of the fleet, Spence said, other equipment considerations take a back seat to the vehicles. He said strategic decision-making must be ongoing, in terms of the fleet, facility and other police-specific equipment systems.

"There's no more visible sign of pride in the city of Gahanna than seeing one of our police vehicles anywhere in central Ohio," Spence said.