City Government

Cop Cars: How Many How Much?


Dear Mayor and Council,
With the Boise City budget pending final approval and police union negotiations approaching, we thought it was a public benefit to check on the Boise Police vehicle fleet and the “take home car” policy. The police budget accounts for 34% of the entire city budget–the biggest chunk by far.Boise Car

Obviously the council has not asked nor been informed about the cost of vehicles and the take home policy. When the GUARDIAN made a request for the following information it took the Boise PD five hours and a fee of $60.54 to gather. (We were charged for 3 hours labor and the first 2 hours were supposedly free).

–The total number of vehicles owned, leased, rented or otherwise publicly funded in the Boise Police fleet, inventory, motor pool, or control.
–A breakdown of the number of “marked” vehicles and the number of “unmarked” vehicles.
–A breakdown by division or job description of the number of “take home” vehicles. This would include, but not be limited to command staff, civilian staff, detectives, k-9, SWAT, SRO…any vehicles, including motorcycles, routinely allowed to be driven to and from duty.

Also, please provide a typical recent cost for the following:
–Marked patrol unit with radio, emergency lights, etc.
–Range of cost for unmarked cars from Ford Focus to large SUV

For the record NO FIRST RESPONDERS drive city vehicles to and from work. Emergency responses are handled by on-duty uniformed staff and supervisors. While there are legitimate reasons for officers to drive city vehicles to and from work, we think it is unreasonable to claim 123 people are so vital to the mission they need to have a car–usually unmarked–to drive back and forth to work.

School resource officers report directly to their assigned duty stations at schools and a stop at the motor pool obviously would be inefficient. However, some cars are driven many miles outside the city and the take home status is simply a taxpayer funded perk.

Spokesperson Lynn Hightower drives a city car to and from work daily and pays about $100 a month because she is not a “sworn officer.” We would venture to guess the value of a car, insurance, maintenance, etc. is worth significantly more than $1200 a year.

Here is the $60.54 response from the police:

–Number of vehicles, 282 total with 124 unmarked and 158 marked.
–Take home cars total 123 (airport canine 4, Criminal investigation detectives 48, canine patrol 6, command staff 14, community outreach 51).
–Cost of marked unit $36,208 for V-8 and $35,274 for V-6.
–Unmarked cars cost from $21,184 to $26,481.

It would no doubt be a good idea to look at the rest of the city fleet and examine the take home policies of Parks, Public Works, Fire, and other departments, but since it is so expensive to get information to the council, we were hoping YOU could ask the questions and not be charged for the answers.

Thanks for your consideration,

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Please BPD no more black muscle cars with the attitude and style, keep the white and blue friendly community brand.

  2. idahocrystal
    Jul 2, 2013, 1:28 pm

    You’re asking good questions and raising legitimate concerns. Remember when it was cheaper to put 2 cops in 1 car than to have 1 cop per car? I can’t think of a single reason a spokesperson needs to have a car and if she’s paying, then shouldn’t this fall under the same category as public property leases, like those in McCall?

    Bottom line: Public assets should never be used to the benefit of public employees.

  3. Hey, firemen can’t be outdone by coppers. Check out their new $35,000 boat. Good thing Parks and Rec has the money to pull weeds and keep alive all the new trees at the Whitewater Park. That was sarcasm in case some of you don’t get it.

    New dive team boat:

  4. Grumpy ole Guy
    Jul 2, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Well what a tall pile of horse hockey we’ve got here. So, how many police officers are there? If officer A has driven car A home does that mean that officer B is driving car B on duty, how long is a duty shift? 8 hours? 12? If 8, we’ve got officer C coming on duty what about a car for him or her, does s/he get car C so officer B can drive car B home? Methinks that we don’t have to get close to Denmark to find an unpleasant odor. And, as has been suggested this may well spread beyond the Police Department. Although I doubt that the Library claims emergence service need demands city cars for its employees.

  5. Dave,

    You should be refunded your $60. The idea that BPD took five hours to pull these records (a de facto $20/hour employee charge) is silly at best.

    A law pushed for by IPC and the late Allen Deer went into effect in 2011 and aims to cut down on this type of issue.

    Great info from the Idaho Press Club about changes made in 2011.

    Public agencies CANNOT use money as a barrier to public access, which is what was attempted here (“Oh you want me to pay, $60, forget it then” — that’s the reply they want). To say that it took a $20/hour employee five hours for such a simple report is, again, silly at best.

  6. FactvFiction
    Jul 2, 2013, 7:57 pm

    While I generally take issue with the Editor about anything he has to say about “coppers” (ya know he was one 100 years ago for about 20 minutes)– I have to say that this is a valid concern. As a taxpayer, I don’t like the idea of a hidden perk that cost’s tens of thousands of dollars annually. And let’s be real – that is exactly what this is, a perk.

    FACTS: NCO’s take their cars home under the auspice of “community policing”, but how many of those cars aren’t even in the city when the NCO is off duty? Even if they are parked in the city, does that really impact crime in the city enough to justify the cost?

    SRO’s work at schools so going to the station everyday would be inefficient? Seriously? Isn’t that what the regular patrol officers who drive around town do? They go to HQ and get a car and then drive to their sector?

    Every detective has a take-home car??? Really? Are they all on-call?

    Every senior member of the department from the Lts to the Chief has a take-home car. Because you never know when the next big event could happen and surely, driving to HQ to grab a car would endanger lives!

    Other than the motorcycle cops, K9 cops, or those few detectives who are truly on-call, the take-home cars should be done away with. (I exclude the motorcycle guys only because bikes are typically stored indoors and I don’t want to pay for another government building to house them. K9’s are typically store indoors too 🙂

    In one fell swoop, I hazard to guess that the Chief of Police could easily save $100,000 per year or more in maintenance, fuel, and replacement vehicle costs by eliminating take home cars. And I’d also venture to guess that the only real effect it would have would be to the wallet of the officers assigned to the cars. Officers who, in my humble opinion, we taxpayers compensate very well for what they do.

    I challenge any cop out there to show me evidence to contradict my position.

    With all that being said – if the Union wants to bargain for that perk and expose it to the light of day, more power to them. At least then we’d have some government transparency.

  7. FactvFiction
    Jul 2, 2013, 8:33 pm

    Wow… I just ran some quick numbers that are shocking! Let’s assume that 23 of the 123 cars legitimately need to be take-home cars. If you assume the other 100 cars are driven on average only 10 extra miles per day round trip to and from work = 1000 vehicle miles/day. Now plug in the IRS official mileage rate of $.565/mile and you get — $565/day!

    Stay with me… $565/day * 365 days a year = ??? yep, $206,225.00!

    Now, I can already hear the statisticians argument — “but they don’t work everyday!” yada yada yada… And I would respond that 10 miles round trip is probably conservative, but that’s not my point — Even if you cut the number of take home cars in half to 61, it is BIG money (or BIG to the average Joe). What a waste.

  8. I just did a quick check on BPD’s site. I copied this… “The Boise Police Department is made up of approximately 407 employees, 325 sworn police officers and a civilian support staff of 82”. Now I’m no math wiz but that is just a tad bit shy of 1/3 actually 30.2%of the entire dept. With an annual salary starting between $39468 and $43560(again taken from BPD’s site)…”Sworn personnel with less than 3 years of previous full time patrol law enforcement experience will start at the Probationary Officer pay grade – $3289 to $3630″ I would think these guys and gals could afford to drive their own car to work.

    Just another reason that I feel LE in particular and Govt. in general need outside over sight. LE has none (please do not bring up the rubber stamp of the ombudsman’s office) and voter apathy ensures that govt. local, state and federal have very little.

  9. Part of the problem lies within lack of planning on the City of Boise’s part when they put the Police Department at the new location. There is not enough parking for all the police vehicles (marked and unmarked), employees, Fire Department vehicles, and visitors. That is a big reason why there is a lot of vehicles being taken home.

    EDITOR NOTE–Vegas, next thing you know they will start charging parking fees at their homes! I can’t buy the parking argument because it was an issue long before there was a parking problem.

  10. chicago sam
    Jul 3, 2013, 4:56 am

    There is some justification for taking cars home especially if they are parked where the passing public can see them. (marked cars of course) Not all of them will be targets for an egg as happened in our neighborhood. At a time when cops are not seen on regular patrol in residential neighborhoods there can be a good case made for higher visibility. I really take exception to the muscle cars still being purchased and failure of police department and city to recognize alternatives–like smart cars and CNG fueled vehicles.

    EDITOR NOTE–Most of the cars are indeed unmarked. It would be much cheaper to just put the door shield on a real estate-type sign in the front yard of coppers and save the cost of the car as a crime deterrent. Chief Masterson has done a good job reducing the size of cars–even some patrol units are now 6 cylinder models. He also has included fuel efficient 4 cylinder units for some folks and many of the cars in the fleet are “flex fuel.” They even give priority parking to fuel efficient and electric vehicles at headquarters! Even so..123 take home cars seems excessive.

  11. chicago sam
    Jul 3, 2013, 10:00 am

    Mr. Guardian. If cars are unmarked serves no purpose to take them home and their are reasons officers do not wish to be identified in their neighborhoods so most cars are probably kept in a garage anyway. We have solved our parking problem in Nampa for police vehicles by spending several million for an ugly parking garage which the Urban Renewal people provided. Hmmm–I wonder if that has anything to do with our high taxes?

  12. As a self employed taxpaying stiff, I can’t even expense my travel to and from work, let alone get a free car. I guess it’s too much to expect that the ones who supposedly work for me aren’t entitled to perks that even I cannot have. It’s high time for a financial ombudsman to oversee the lax and frankly self indulgent financial practices of our wonderful leaders. (Sarcasm intended).

    While your at it Dave, check out the re-landscaping of fire stations. The one in our neighborhood was done – thousands (I’m sure) spend to replace, what was by every standard,perfectly adequate. And it hardly looks any different now. Wasteful. Indulgent. Unnecessary.

  13. Too bad BO’s phony, federal level “sequestration” baloney can’t used as an excuse to completely do away with this almost purely “just because we can get by with it, eat cake you serfs” bonus program. Any idea if Sheriff Raney has a similar perk program for Ada county’s deputies that we taxpayers all involuntarily fund?

    For BPD to impose what amounts to a fine on The Guardian to have them provide information that IS completely within your rights to know is absurd. ESPECIALLY in this age of computers and tracking programs to claim that it took FIVE hours to research information that, most of which, should be common knowledge to all the senior supervisory staff of YOUR employees.

    With many police visualizing themselves in an increasingly paramilitary role, from uniforms and heavy weapons to armored vehicles you would think that they would also emulate the military’s vehicle tracking programs. . . Anyone who has a need to know can get information from the responsible enlisted personnel with in minutes, to include current location of vehicles and their operational status. You must have incensed someone by having the audacity to even want to know how YOUR money is being squandered.

    And along those lines, just how in Hades do civilian organizations come up with “Commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs)?” I am quite certain that Congress doesn’t commission “Officers” and appoint them to our local civilian constabularies. I see nothing in civilian law enforcement organizations beyond appointed Police Chiefs, or our elected Sheriffs, and various levels of SUPERVISORS, not NCOs.

  14. FactvFiction
    Jul 3, 2013, 1:41 pm

    NCO = Neighborhood Contact Officer. Same letters, different acronym.

    EDITOR NOTE–We also got word those coppers are never called out to respond after hours.

  15. Not to be nit picky but, is neighborhood contact not an integral part of this job? I was unaware there are people specifically designated for this.

    I will say that with the unfortunate penchant for military type dress, hair cuts, tactics, rank structure and the like it is getting harder to tell the local cops from military units.

  16. FvF, thank you for the clarification. I could, some days, keep up barely with those accursed acronyms used by my own branch and even a few of the unique ones used by brothers and sisters from other services with whom we worked.
    I learned something.
    Still very opposed though to the private use of taxpayer funded vehicles and equipment for what certainly appears to be personal gain.

  17. Don’t know if true or accurate, but I was told the City of Nampa has about 700 vehicles, city wide. If correct, the number seems excessive.

  18. chicago sam
    Jul 4, 2013, 6:44 pm

    In a report for 2011 by Nampa City Finance dept. Vehicle Maintenance reported servicing 547 units which were driven 1.8 million miles. My math says this is 3290 miles per vehicle. Some of these units (but not many) may have been tractors and lawn mowers. I would say George is correct– Number of vehicles is excessive

  19. Just how many perks are government employees receiving? Pretty good pay, fully funded retirement, full health coverage, and I guess almost everone gets a car. Maybe a government employee should post other items on their “bucket List”.

  20. George et al
    Jul 6, 2013, 9:58 pm

    Hey George, before you start straining your brain with guessing why don’t you do some REAL research: The average cop with 20 years experience STARTed at a salary of approx. $25k annually. So while you and all the private sector hotshots were making 50K starting out of the box, cops made a decision early on to go this route. So don’t start damning them now that the private sector has been destroyed by this administration and the REAL unemployment rate is at LEAST 25%. And as far as the so called pension goes, do some more checking. The AVERAGE Persi retirement is approx 1200 dollars…….a MONTH. So give it a rest. I don’t think any HONEST cops are getting rich out there on your dime.

    EDITOR NOTE–Boise PD starts out at about $40K a year. After 5 yrs a police officerII makes $54K. When overtime is included, there are some who bring in more than $100K.

  21. George et al x2
    Jul 6, 2013, 10:03 pm

    …and as for the dishonest ones, let’s just sit back and watch the fireworks. It’ll be worth it.

  22. George et al x2
    Jul 7, 2013, 1:38 am

    Yes EDITOR: NOW they do. Like I said 20 years ago……………………………………..The point being that sacrifices were made by these guys and the pension was one of the considerations as little as it appears to be. Yes…yes there are some aren’t there.

  23. Digressing from the original articles subject about taxpayer funded, apparently un-reported and taxed, public “servant” perks even further, I submit this link about the US Dollar compared to our current the current Obama Marks we still call USDs. I know, some hate and question everything on Wiki but here it is anyway.
    A 25K STARTING salary in 1993 would have been no hardship for most of us subjects.
    Comparing our present THREE cent valued Obie marks to what our money was worth in the past is about like comparing what is left of the current “Mohammed Ali” to the vital, young, draft dodging, “Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee” Cassius Clay. . .

  24. George et al x2

    I’m not sure who you think started out at 50k 20 years ago. Why don’t you do some research… 1993 US avg. $21,385… Ct. had the highest avg @ $29,051. With the perks they get cops get they make DAMn good money. 21 yo kid with no experience and no ED starting at almost 40k…. way, way, way too much for what they do the amount of training and education.

    I would really like to hear what kind of “sacrifices” you think they made?

    But are we not digressing from what the initial story was about? ‎

    EDITOR NOTE–Well said. The issue at hand is 123 take home cars. We are reluctant to discuss police matters sometimes because it brings out the cop haters and the cop lovers. We honestly try to bring matters to the attention of the public which are of constitutional, ethical and fiscal concern.

  25. There are a certain number of people who are on call 24/7 and they need to take a car home. Others who take cars home makes it a perk at taxpayer expense.

    I see cop cars, fire engines and all manner of govt. vehicles outside grocery stores, health clubs and other facilities. The other thing that bothers me is seeing empty vehicles sitting at a curb idling away taxpayer gasoline.

  26. George et al x2
    Jul 7, 2013, 12:41 pm

    You are right: we are digressing. We were talking about how you are interested in cops driving cars back and forth from home to the station.. Important stuff here in the valley. Obviously you are unemployed or you got a ticket….either way your obvious bias is a little to evident hidden under your subtle tone of “public interest”. Besides you I think there are 5 other people who really give a damn considering the unemployment rate, the drug and gang problem nation wide, the murder rate in American cities, politicians lying cheating and sacrificing our young men in a war they don’t support..( oh yea Tom we are still at war) and any other of a hundred issues. But let’s get back on the issue of a cop driving his car 5 miles or so from his home. It is no wonder this city is so pathetic. YOU have nothing to DO!

  27. Great point… one thing at a time… piling on will do not good. And believe it or not bashing will be very counter productive in this situation. Can you believe I am advocating for no cop bashing???

  28. I would not mind if the unmarked were part of crime fighting and getting dangerous drivers off the road… but they are not. The cars are just a perk they hoped nobody would ask about… a perk when taxes are going up during the worst economy in most people’s lives. BPD pay, BFD pay, and Boise City pay in general is over the top for the region already. I hope the editor digs deeper to find all the government cars and government fuel cards well within the gray areas.

    What say you Mr. Mayor?

  29. George et al x2. I wonder if you know what et al means? I assume you are a cop by the hostility and the insane… anyone who dislikes cops has to be a law breaker attitude.

    The subject is the waste of over $100k of tax money just by the LE industry in Boise alone. That is the subject of this thread. Since you obviously are incapable of contributing to it please excuse yourself from it.

  30. George
    I am going to humor you one time and answer the concerns you raised, then I will no longer comment on anything you say that is not on the issue at hand.

    1. I am not sure what crystal ball you consulted to come up with the hypothesis that “Obviously you are unemployed or you got a ticket”. I am employed thank you and I receive a military retirement. No need to thank me for my service, it would be a hollow gesture on your part. My last ticket was over 3 years ago so I am sure that does not apply either. I am not bias I just state what I see and what I see is this, the LE industry feels that they are owed some sort of reverence, which they are not, along with starting pay that is much higher than most other public servants, specifically the military.

    2. If there are only five people concerned about this that is a shame but, I am sure at one point during the American Revolution there were only 5 people talking about that issue too and look how that turned out. So to say that since only a small number of people are discussing this now it is not worth the time is ludicrous. As to your point of unemployment, gangs, murders and such there is not much this small Boise forum can do to effect those issues but, there is much more that a group of concerned citizens in the valley can do to elevate this issue. Will it do much good? Probably not, the status quo will be upheld the LE industry will go on without much if any supervision and life for those few anointed individuals will remain the same. Does that mean this should not be discussed? Since it does not matter to you, you think it is irrelevant others do not. Learn that in our society your narrow view of things does not give you the right to put down others opinions it will make things easier on you.

    3. Again you end with an attack toward me personally. It is sad that have no more respect for the thoughts of others than that.

    I will ask again, are you a current or former member of the LE industry?

  31. George et al x2
    Jul 7, 2013, 8:53 pm

    At ease stud. Take a breath. Relax. You have let so much out of your little bag of tricks it is no longer worth responding to you. You are a hater and on some agenda drive tirade against your local fuzz that it would be funny…but it’s not.

  32. Wow…

  33. Dave, I appreciate your continued efforts to expose the on going wanton, and in many cases, the corrupt and often illegal spending of our tax monies.
    That it occurs on such blatant issues as the private misuse of vehicles at the city level, (isn’t that one of the same issues that sent Brother Coles to jail?), continued frivolous waste of taxpayer dollars on a silly damn trolley almost no one wants or the apparent “gifts” (early dowry payment?) of TWO million dollars for absolutely no value received at the county level.
    I understand that we have a Representative Republic but w/o any citizen oversight and no accountability or fear of punitive actions, these elected representatives/public “servant” spendthrifts are running amuck at all levels of “our” government.
    Our landlords, Ada County, were paid their exorbitant, semi annual “rent” payment on our home last month. Consequently, our finances this month allow a small contribution to help defray the cost of your fine/penalty to acquire information from your Boise elected and appointed rulers. The contribution represents something many no longer understand, or care about, THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING!

  34. Is any one still interested in discussing this? Or did the attacks succeed in their designed effort to dissuade open discourse?

  35. dh

    While I sometimes disagree with your choice of words I will have to say that you are spot on in the above comment. There are those who have posted here that it is simply a “hater” that is appalled by the wanton disregard of any kind of over sight of these public servants. It is apparent that many “branches” of government on the local, state and federal levels have chosen a 1700’s parliamentary approach to governing. I hope that point is not too abstract for some to follow.

    Elected officials will tell you they have over sight in the voter and in fact they do, when the voter bothers to vote. LE on the other hand thumbs there collective nose at the huddled masses and tells them, we know what is best, when in actuality they very seldom have no clue.

    Instances like this are evidence of the systemic problems with LE in particular and govt. in general. The misdirecting of legitimate concerns and attempts at redirecting focus IE some of the comments above about haters and such, are usually a give away that the problem is in fact deeper than it would appear.

    This first step in attempting to get some transparency in LE in the area seems to be of great concern and it appears that there are those that feel it must be quashed ASAP.

    As follow on questions I personally wonder what the numbers would be if the same question was asked of ACSD,NPD,CPD, GCPD,CCSD, ect.

    Dave pointed out that spokesperson Hightower has a “take home car” that she pays $100 a month for I am sure that amount covers the amount of fuel she uses in getting back and forth to work and her having a car to use while at work seems reasonable but, I wonder if her need for a city owned car is justified by her having to respond to an emergency press conference in the middle of the night, something I am sure happens quite frequently. Not to pick on Mrs. Hightower I am sure her function is considered vital to the PR campaign of the dept. this is just one glairing example of what the military used to call fraud, waste, and abuse.

  36. FactvFiction
    Jul 8, 2013, 12:20 pm

    I’m still interested in the original topic. And having seen Chief Masterson post on this forum, I will presume he has read this blog entry. So, what say you Chief Masterson? Will you do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, for the right reason and stop needlessly wasting tax dollars? You could hire two police officers if the take-home cars weren’t being abused!

  37. I would like to see a study where the life span of a ‘take home car’ and a ‘fleet car’ were compared side by side. I know the studies are out there, just not sure where to find them. A fleet car will get theoretically run 24/7 or close to it. That is obviously a lot of where and tear on the vehicle. A take home car would get run a lot less. If that take home car lasts seven or eight years, VS three or four for the fleet car is it worth it?

  38. George et al x2
    Jul 8, 2013, 1:45 pm

    No. There are REAL issues that need to be exposed and debated. Tom this is NOT one of them. It’s ridiculous.

  39. Well George it seems that others disagree with you. Not only me. Why are YOU singling me out for your wrath? This is an issue that is costing tax payers any where from $90 thousand to over $200 thousand a year in wasted money. To give a “perk” to cops.

    I really do not care that they take there shiny status symbol home I just don’t want to pay for the gas and maintenance cost for the extra mileage. The rest of us have to provide our own way to work why can the “coddled” not do the same?


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