N.C. city allows cops to take their cruisers home for 'competitive edge' in recruitment

Police Chief Brian James said that such a program would increase police visibility in the community

By Richard Barron
News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — After voting without comment to put forth a $135 million bond referendum, the City Council hit a 65-minute unexpected snag Wednesday on spending $1.1 million for extra police cars.

Council ultimately voted unanimously to begin a program that would allow officers to take their patrol cars home with them. But all nine council members weighed in, some repeatedly, on the issue during the long discussion.

A Greensboro Police Department vehicle advertises police jobs in Greensboro, N.C.
A Greensboro Police Department vehicle advertises police jobs in Greensboro, N.C. (Greensboro Police Department)

Police Chief Brian James said that such a program would increase police visibility in the community and increase the department's "competitive edge" in recruiting new officers.

Law enforcement agencies in High Point, Winston-Salem and Burlington, for example, offer cars to their officers.

The first authorization is for $1.1 million to buy 20 vehicles with an overall goal of buying 100 cars over five years.

Council members Yvonne Johnson, Sharon Hightower and Hugh Holston asked James during the discussion how the cars would be deployed throughout the city, wanting to ensure that some vehicles will be given to officers who live in minority districts.

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Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter said the vote was critical.

"I have every bit of confidence that it will be done in an equitable way," she said. "We can't lose any more of our good officers."

Councilwoman Goldie Wells agreed, saying it was important to purchase the cruisers for recruitment.

"We need to make this decision," she said before the vote. "We can talk about it all night."

James outlined repeatedly that having take-home cars is crucial to recruiting officers during a time when fewer people want to have careers in law enforcement.

Council members rarely mentioned the cost during the discussion, which began to dominate the three-hour meeting.

Marlene Druga, a city financial official, said that adding more police vehicles would strain existing garage space. She added that the city would probably need to spend between $16 million and $32 million for a new garage.

The city has an option to sell already authorized bonds to raise the money.

Councilman Justin Outling asked whether there is an option to expand the garage without "taking on more debt."

"That information would be helpful to have," he said.

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Also Wednesday, council voted unanimously to hold a bond referendum for the public to decide whether to issue up to $135 million for a variety of city projects.

The referendum will be held sometime in spring 2022.

If approved, the measure would include up to $30 million in housing bonds for low- and moderate-income people.

The referendum would also include requests for:

  • Up to $70 million for parks and recreation, including money for a joint library/recreation center project.
  • Up to $14 million for firefighting facilities.
  • Up to $6 million for law enforcement facilities.
  • Up to $15 million for transportation projects.

Finally on Wednesday, council unanimously approved incentives worth up to $287,000 for two companies that are considering expansions in the city.

RPM Wood Finishes Group asked council for a $160,729 incentive. The company said it is considering Greensboro along with other sites for a new operation that will be worth $19.5 million and hire 53 workers.

The Hickory-based company makes coatings for wood and furniture under a variety of brands.

TAT Piedmont wanted $126,423 in exchange for the possibility that it will invest $13.4 million and hire 85 workers. TAT Piedmont is considering an expansion in Greensboro or Tulsa, Okla. The company repairs and overhauls aviation components near Piedmont Triad International Airport.

(c)2021 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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