Patterson police car policy fails
By PRESTON GILL
PATTERSON – A resolution to allow police to take their cars home failed at the conclusion of a two-hour city council meeting Tuesday night.
Nearly two dozen uniformed Patterson police officers silently marched out of a filled-to-capacity council chamber after the meeting.
Police Chief Patrick LaSalle made a plea to allow 17 patrol officers to bring their units home when their shift ends. This morning he said the policy would continue a previous one that allowed officers to take the vehicles home and park them, but not use them for personal reasons.
Officers who live within the city limits are allowed to bring their cars home.
“This is a tool we need to have in place,” LaSalle said. “Send a message to these officers and let them know you are behind them … Your police department will serve but we need some direction (on the policy) right now.”
Councilman Joe Russo said a lot of questions are unanswered and all eyes are on the council to make sure they make the right decision. He counseled his fellow councilmen to try to digest information on the resolution and other matters that were either tabled or withdrawn Tuesday night.
Councilman Larry Mendoza made a motion to pass a resolution approving a policy allowing all patrol officers, but only patrol officers, to bring their units home after their shift is over. He offered the resolution with the understanding that it would be subject to review in the future if there was a problem. No one offered a second to the motion and it died.
This morning Grogan said that 10 of the 17 officers live out of town. LaSalle said he thought the number was higher.
Councilman John Rentrop asked if anyone knew how much money the city saves by parking the cars.
LaSalle said a price cannot be placed on the security of the city, which he said is affected by the current policy of parking the cars for officers who live out of the city limits.
This morning LaSalle estimated the 10 officers live an average of 12 miles from the city limits which means they consume about a gallon of fuel to bring the vehicle home. That extrapolates to a weekly cost of about $175 for letting the 10 officers bring the vehicles home, he said.
“Are we going to put a price on people’s lives?” LaSalle asked. “It is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately. I hope they will understand this is about public safety and an additional 15 minute response time can be the difference between life and death. That is a game changer.”
The council kept in force the current policy began by the mayor on Sept. 19 that keeps police cars parked at 205 Park St. for off duty officers living out of town.
In addition to resuming the practice of approving minutes from the previous meeting and presenting a monthly finance report at the top of the meeting, Grogan asked the council to approve more than 30 months of meeting minutes at one time.
Grogan removed from consideration an ordinance that had been introduced last month to create a cultural district with the prohibition of future mobile homes and an ordinance approving the option of a $500 automobile allowance or the use of a city automobile for him and future mayors.
The council tabled discussion on a similar ordinance for the chief of police.
Rentrop said, “I need more time to make educated, informed and responsible decisions.”
Councilwoman Sandra Turner nodded her head. “I agree.”
Councilman Joe Russo said, “We are going to step back and take a breath and do the right thing for the city.”
Russo added, “This is not personal. Any decision I make will be made in the best interests of the city.”
Grogan said while the lengthy discussions led to some frustrating moments he supports the council’s decision to hold off voting.
“They are the ones that make the decision. I don’t vote,” Grogan said. “There are some little things they want to look at more closely before they take a vote.”
The council agreed to amend city ordinances that will require future developments to include 4-foot wide sidewalks installed along the roadways, require future developments to have subsurface drainage as well as voted for an amended garbage and trash ordinance that will provide for city pickup of trash at residences as long as it is bundled to proper lengths. The ordinance says that trees cut in undeveloped areas or by contractors will not be picked up by the city.
In other action:
—The council approved recognizing Oct. 18 to 27 as Red Ribbon Drug Free Week after a presentation by committee chairwoman Dianne Wiltz.
—Grogan also presented the keys of the city to Ross LaGrange, 16, of Patterson who was made an Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop 41 with a Sept. 28 ceremony.
—Grogan presented the council a copy of the parish employee handbook and asked council members to review as he tries to make a similar document for city workers.