Plan needed for sheriff squad cars – Editorial

To quote Yogi Berra – It’s déjá vu all over again.
About a decade ago, Aaron Lay, Fayette County’s sheriff, agreed to take out of his budget $55,000 for vehicles, to help the county with its financial issues. But, at the same time, he asked the county to approve the purchase of a van to transport both state and federal prisoners.
That new van was replacing one that had more than 200,000 miles on the odometer.
Two years later, Lay was pleading for, and received, $45,000 for the purchase of three squad cars, replacing one with more than 200,000, one right at 200,000 and a third at $175,000.
The three vehicles purchased were used patrol cars from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, each with 50,000-55,000 miles on the odometer.
That practice has been repeated a number of times over the years.
When he took over as sheriff in 2014, Chris Smith was faced with the same situation – a fleet of vehicles with high mileage, which was requiring the expenditure of considerable dollars for maintenance.
Early in first term, Smith was somewhat able to address the problem with seized vehicles that were in good enough condition to serve as patrol vehicles.
Also, Smith has keep his fleet going by purchasing used squad vehicles.
Last Tuesday, Smith, like his predecessor, was before the county board explaining that the average mileage of his vehicles is 134,000, with one of them having an odometer reading of about 210,000.
He also told board members about using his budget for major repairs on three of his squad cars.
No solution to the ongoing problem of continually having patrol cars that are high mileage and becoming maintenance headaches came up on Tuesday, though it has been discussed that patrols on interstate highways in the county arehelping to generate funds for the county.
But, even with those additional funds coming in, the sheriff’s budget has remained at an amount that does not allow for continually upgrading his fleet.
It’s no secret that the county has been working in recent years to take steps that address financial issues.
But, continuing to have county law enforcement using aging vehicles that require considerable maintenance and putting those officers in a position to drive squad cars that have reliability issues is obviously a problem.
How does that issue impact you? Say you or a family member has a medical issue or someone breaks into your house, and an officer’s car breaks down responding to your call for immediate help.