BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As car 324 rolls in off an overnight shift, Birmingham Police Officer Christian Herod is already ready to take over the car.
The first officer doesn’t even take out the keys. “We always keep the car running at all times,” Herod said. They leave the car running so that the next officer on duty can get out on the streets as quickly as possible.
“You want to hurry and get back out on the beat because you don’t know what might go on. We try to come out and cover that area best we can,” Officer Herod said.
Birmingham police officers say every shift change, officers switch out but their cars never get a break.
“Basically that occurs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” Lt. Scott Thurmond with the Birmingham Police Department said.
“This car is always on so that’s why these cars don’t last long,” Herod said. Officer Herod also showed us just how many miles their cars cover.
In just three and half hours, we drove 80 miles doing basic patrol around neighborhoods, shopping centers, and along Highway 280.
“You can easily put 300 miles a day on this car between three shifts,” Herod said. “It’s very hard wear and tear, you know life expectancy on our cars is two, three years at the absolute most,” Lt. Thurmond said. Police say there is an alternative: buy more cars so officers could each have their own.
“Research has shown for other departments and even with our officers here that do have take-home cars with specialized units; those cars last much longer. Six, eight, ten years because they’re not driven 24 hours a day,” Lt. Thurmond said.
Of course, that means the department would need money for new cars but according the city’s new budget for 2016; they won’t be getting it. The mayor’s office said the police department asked for $1.9 million to buy new cars in May but it didn’t pass.
“Our police officers go above and beyond every day for the citizens of this City. We are in the position of not having enough cars for our officers and running existing cars 24/7. We need this problem addressed and addressed this fiscal year,” said Mayor William Bell in a press release from the mayor’s office.
“This vehicle purchase is absolutely critical for our law enforcement operations. Our patrol beat vehicles are driven 23 hours a day, 365 days a year and are often referred to as ‘hot seat’ vehicles. It’s unfortunate but this method means we have officers at the precincts waiting on the officers from the previous shift to drive in and hand them the keys so they can then drive the same vehicle back into the community. This means the vehicles have no down time and due to excessive wear and tear must be replaced sooner,” Birmingham Police Chief A. C. Roper explained in the press release.
Both the mayor and the police chief are trying to push it through again. It will be discussed next Monday at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting. Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News