By Darrell Todd Maurina
The Clovis Police Department may soon have $125,000 added to its budget to purchase new police cars.
At a meeting Tuesday morning, Clovis City Commission’s Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to recommend the full city commission add that amount to the police department’s capital budget to pay for police cars. The new budget, if approved, would be $250,000 for the next fiscal year.
“We’ve got 16 vehicles now that really need to be replaced,” said police chief Bill Carey.
That equipment may end up being the cheaper Chevrolet Impala police model rather than the more common Ford Crown Victoria. Carey said the price difference is about $5,000 based on a fully equipped police cruiser.
Public safety committee vice-chairman Kevin Duncan said he wanted to see the police get new cars as soon as possible, but also wanted to leave the decision of which vehicle to the police chief.
“I have complete confidence in your department; you’re not going to go out and buy cars that aren’t good for your department,” Duncan said. “I think it gives the police officers more respect if they are driving nice new cars rather than old jalopies. I’m not saying we have any jalopies but some of these cars are getting pretty old.”
Responding to concerns by some committee members that the Impalas might not be able to keep up with criminals on chases, Deputy Chief R.E. Bartosiewicz said that’s not a major concern on the city police level.
“Pursuits are slowly but surely going out,” Bartosiewicz said. “We usually now go five to six blocks, get the license numbers, and back off.”
City Commissioner Robert Sandoval said he was glad the police have a policy allowing officers to take their cars home for the day and wanted to make sure that policy stays in place.
“I like to see the police car in people’s driveways; it takes care of the whole neighborhood,” Sandoval said.
Carey said the department has no intention of changing its policy since cars driven by a single officer are generally maintained better.
“When you have one officer driving one vehicle, he’ll take care of it as if it were his own, and if he doesn’t we have captains and lieutenants to make sure he does,” Carey said.
The public safety committee approved a request by City Manager Ray Mondragon to add $150,000 to the fire department vehicle purchase budget. The new budget, if approved, would be $260,000 for the next fiscal year but is expected to be re-examined.
“Fire equipment is a lot more expensive than police equipment,” Mondragon said.
Fire Chief Ron Edwards said some of the needed vehicle purchases could run as high as $600,000 though most will be considerably cheaper, and said the department needs to budget for several years in advance to make sure it has the funds for major equipment replacement.
Mondragon also informed the committee that he has made a $1.6 million request for federal assistance because the city rather than the Cannon Fire Department now provides fire protection and ambulance services to off-base military housing.
In other business, Capt. Leon Morris told the committee that the department is testing its sirens to make sure people can be alerted in the event of an emergency and is considering a $30,000 purchase of a “reverse 911” system.
“The reverse 911 system allows us to contact all the people in an area that might be affected by an emergency,” Morris said. “We call all the numbers in that area, several hundred a minute, and deliver a pre-recorded message.”