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Take-home sqaud cars - a good deal?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Emergency Services Vehicles McHenry County, Illinois

Take-home sqaud cars - a good deal?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
June 12, 2011


Are take-home squad cars a good deal? Today the Northwest Herald made the topic a front-page, top-right article. That's prime territory in a newspaper. It's the best "real estate" in the paper.

I've written about take-home cars before, and I'm sure I'll write again.

Are they a good deal?

For the deputies, they are (to use our former governor's language --- (no, wait; I won't...) golden. Some deputies don't even own personal vehicles. Think of the money they save each month by not owning a personal vehicle - no monthly payment, no gas, no maintenance, no insurance, no repairs, no tires, no license plates. Some of those who don't have personal cars rely on a spouse's car or a girlfriend's car.

Or they drive a squad car when they shouldn't; for example, when they are drunk. Or, maybe, when they have "just" been drinking. After all, who is going to "stop" a squad car and then write up the driver for a DUI?

According to Lt. John Miller of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department, "The (take-home) program reduces wear on vehicle because they are not running 24 hours a day, and increases response time." He also said that the take-home squad car policy has been in existence for 20 years.

I wonder if MCSD tracks the number of times that any deputy have been called out in the middle of his off-duty time to respond to a call. Think you could count the number of times in 20 years on one hand? On both hands? Counting with all fingers and all toes?

Does MCSD require deputies to record odometer readings at the beginning of each day? Suppose one deputy lives two miles from the department headquarters, and another deputy lives 20 miles away? Who pays for the gas?

How many take-home cars are used by personnel who live outside the County? The answer should be, "None." That's not the answer. So, how many?

The article read (so Lt. Miller must have said) that "Personal use of squad cars is discouraged..." That's not good enough. What's that old military phrase, "Rank hath its privileges."

If you are among the favored, the line for "discouraged use" will be drawn in sand. A deputy on the wrong side of the line will be disciplined, whereas a deputy on the "right" side of the line will get a pass for the same use.

And no passengers except law enforcement? When Corrections Chief Sedlock was in the hospital, didn't his wife drive his take-home car to the hospital (50 miles one-way) to see him, and didn't family members ride with her? His car is a County-owned, take-home vehicle (not sure about emergency equipment and police-band radios), but it belonged parked in the yard at home while he was hospitalized - or, better yet, returned to the Sheriff's Department parking lot, where it could have been put into other use (after all straw was removed from the trunk). And who paid for the gas for those hospital runs?

Mileage records for the Sheriff's Tahoe have interested me for months. When Sheriff Nygren lived in Hebron, the distance to the office was 9.6 miles. That's 20 miles/day. If he went to the office five days a week, that's 100 miles in a week. How many miles a week did he actually drive it? How many in a month? Odometer readings will disclose that. So would maintenance records at the department's service garage.

He's a little farther away now - 11.8 miles, so he might drive 24 miles/day on his commute. But he hasn't been in town much, so the Tahoe should have been parked. When he goes to Minocqua, does he drive his personal vehicle? Does he even own a personal vehicle?



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