WILLIAMSON - Expect to see the Williamson Police Department’s cruisers outside the city now.
At Thursday’s meeting of the Williamson City Council at City Hall, the council unanimously passed a policy pitched by Chief of Police C.D. Rockel and Sgt. Grady Dotson, allowing WPD officers to take their assigned cruisers home with them.
Dotson approached the council with notes in one hand and a microphone in the other, speaking to them about the take home car policy.
“It’s about public safety,” Dotson told the council. “It’s easier to take the car from home than it is to drive to get the car.”
Under the WPD’s old method, officers had to drive personal vehicles to the station to get into their police cruisers to respond to calls or begin a shift at all. With this new policy, officers can always have their car with them, but would only be able to “move them on official business.”
Dotson also said that this policy “deters crime when people see a parked cruiser” at a home.
The sergeant also said that it would help officer retention and it would be an extra incentive in helping to recruit new ones to come work in Williamson.
“We’re getting into the 21st century,” Dotson said, “and we’ll have something to offer.”
Rockel also approached the council, his words echoing Dotson’s first point.
“It’s all about public safety, public safety, public safety,” Rockel told the council. “It (the policy) offers more visibility and deters crime.”
He also said that “most agencies have a take home car policy.” However, Rockel said that there would be limitations as to what this policy would entail.
“They can’t be going to Walmart or the grocery store,” Rockel said about the officers taking their cars home. “When they get home, they are to be parked until needed for police business.”
“I don’t want to see these cars at the Walmart in Charleston!” Councilman York Smith said, laughing.
Rockel said that this privilege would be taken away if it were abused, but was confident in the proposal.
“I think its a good idea,” Rockel said. “I can’t find fault with it.”
The chief said that it may help retain newer officers, of which the WPD received two this week, and be less expensive for everyone to come to work. He also noted that it could free personal cars for a spouse to use, as the officer wouldn’t need it to drive to work with.
Ultimately, Rockel said, the policy would be up to the mayor and department head’s discretion.
Councilwoman Sherri Brown asked if the officers had to be in uniform when in their cruisers, to which Rockel responded with a “yes,” but included situations in which they wouldn’t have to.
“If it’s inclement weather out or they’re participating in a raid,” Rockel said, “They can wear their BDUs (battle dress uniforms.)”
Mayor Darrin McCormick said that he supported the policy, but that there would be “no personal use, no unauthorized passengers and used on official business only.”
“If I see two cruisers headed down (U.S.) 119,” McCormick said, “It’s over.”
The mayor also said that officers should not be able take their cruisers home if they are on an extended leave, like vacation, in case the department were to need that car for some reason.
The motion was called for and unanimously approved, with Councilwoman Connie Rockel abstaining from the vote.
“Effective when?” Rockel asked the mayor.
“As soon as you get them all marked,” McCormick said, smiling.