MUNCIE, Ind. -- The Muncie Police Department is starting a new policy for the first time that will allow officers to take their vehicles home and drive them while off duty.
The department recently added 27 new Ford Explorers to the fleet of vehicles. The new SUVs were given to each supervisor, as well as officers chosen by their shift co-workers. These officers as well as all others with more than one year of experience are also now eligible to take home their patrol vehicle. Older vehicles were updated.
Muncie Police Chief Joe Winkle said the move to switch to take home vehicles is to stay competitive with other local departments. The city has struggled to recruit and retain quality officers in recent years. Chief Winkle said he hopes it will be an incentive for new recruits to consider applying.
Officers using take home vehicles will be able to drive them while off duty as well.
"They have to be able to respond to any major call while their out and around. They have to have a vest and assist with traffic if there’s an issue and respond if there’s an accident," Chief Winkle said.
The take home policy not only offers police the ability to respond quickly to scenes, it also helps increase viability on the roads.
"People see the police car. They don’t know if they’re on duty or off duty," said Chief Winkle.
Officer Ron Locke has been with the Muncie Police Department for 19 years. He said the take home policy is about more than just convenience.
"Not having to lug all your stuff in and out of it, not having to find it in the mornings over in the parking lot somewhere," Officer Locke said.
The new SUVs also have extra storage for rifles and SWAT gear as well as dive team equipment. The vehicles are also outfitted for natural gas, which is more cost effective and energy efficient. Chief Winkle said most officers only have to fill up their tanks once per shift.
A $1 million loan through the city's redevelopment commission allowed for the purchase of the 27 new SUVs as well as a brand new fire truck for the Muncie Fire Department. The police department will pay about $80,000 toward that loan each year for six years. Chief Winkle said those funds will come from the LOIT tax. He said he hopes to get four or five new SUVs each year to replace outdated patrol vehicles.