About 80 percent of Kaua’i Police Department officers are authorized to take home their patrol vehicles in a program aimed at increasing the length of use of police cars, reducing police-related car accidents and reducing maintenance costs.
Police Chief George Freitas said the program instills a principle of pride and ownership among officers, who are allowed to drive cars home if they are in good standing and meet certain standards in an annual review, Freitas said.
There was some upfront expense to the county to buy more cars, but before this program was instituted, cars were lasting about three years. Other agencies that had instituted similar programs were getting about seven years of use of their cars.
Already the police department has seen benefits. According to Chief Freitas, the police accident rate was cut in half last year. Vehicle maintenance costs have also declined. The KPD usually receives about $70-80,000 for vehicle maintenance, an account which is usually depleted by year end. In 2001 there was a surplus of several thousand dollars.
Kaua’i residents benefit indirectly as well. Speeding in neighborhoods seems to have declined, and police officers can respond faster to emergencies.
In the trunk of each patrol car is a kit with hurricane equipment and gear that will sustain an officer for 24 hours or help others in need, Freitas said.
Some police officers have removed, added or modified the decals and interior design of their vehicles.
While these officers didn’t get official authorization to add stickers or paint on their cars, Freitas said he approves of it.
“I’m not objecting to it because we’re trying to instill a sense of pride and ownership. It is their home, where they live for 40 hours of the week,” Freitas said, “If we can cut accident rates in half and reduce maintenance costs, why not.”