By BRADEN LAMMERS
Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden on Wednesday took a first step to address the budget gap his office is facing by changing the policy for 40 take-home vehicles used by the department’s officers.
The measure was taken to help bridge a budget gap of about $1.2 million in the sheriff’s department that must be closed before the end of the year.
The Clark County Council has asked the sheriff to provide a detailed plan of how he will meet the budget appropriated to the department back in March — after the Department of Local Government Finance returned a certified budget order $7 million less than what the county had requested — by Friday. Rodden has repeatedly said he does not know how he will cut that much out of his budget because the only area he can cut is salaries, he has state requirements that the department must meet and he is already short-staffed.
While the sheriff’s deputies will still be able to drive the vehicles to their homes under the revised policy, they will not be able to use the cars for any type of personal use.
“We’re telling all of our guys they can only drive them for sheriff’s office business only,” Rodden said.
He added the mileage the officers drive is recorded and tracked while they are on duty and the deputies will be required to call in and report when they end their shifts. Rodden said the officers are still taking the vehicles home because there is no place for all of the cars to be securely parked; if the cars are at the officer’s homes they are safer from vandalism; and police vehicles being parked in neighborhoods helps as a crime deterrent.
Capt. Brian Meyer, who acts as an organizer for the sheriff’s alliance, said the change will not affect the majority of the officers.
“We want to try and do our part to help the county out of our financial crisis,” he said. “So, if it helps, we’re willing to do that.”
He added that the only drawback he could see because of the policy change would be for the sheriff’s department detectives. Meyer explained that the county’s detectives are always on call and if they needed to respond to an incident when they were away from home they would have to go home, pick up their county vehicle, then come to the crime scene.
There may be a few exceptions to the policy as Rodden said he will allow for a couple of vehicles to be used for deputies that are working as security at the Southern Indiana Treatment Center and at Ivy Tech Community College.
“I’m going to try it for a while and see how it works,” he said.
Rodden said the policy may be revisited and amended to not allow deputies to take their vehicles home. The policy will be in place for at least a month before the department will know how much savings the change will generate and whether or not it will have to be revisited, he said.
The sheriff’s department may not be the only county department that changes its policy for take-home vehicles. Clark County Highway Superintendent Jim Ross said discussions have taken place as to whether or not the policy will change for highway department workers. He said workers take the vehicles home because it is faster for them to respond if they are called for an emergency in the middle of the night.
However, Ross said the county highway department workers are not allowed to use their trucks — of which there are five, and one car used by County Engineer Hyun Lee — for personal use.
“We don’t use them on a personal basis,” he said. “We track the mileage [and] nobody uses their vehicle other than straight home and straight back.”