As Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, Greensboro is an “outlier” when it comes to take home police cars. 

At some point in the last few decades, Greensboro fell behind the competing jurisdictions in the area and is the only one that doesn’t provide police officers with take home cars.

This year the Greensboro City Council has a great opportunity to fix a problem it didn’t create, but so far the City Council is opposed.  It is a unique opportunity because the federal government decided to give Greensboro more than $59 million to spend pretty much on anything the City Council wants.

This is a budget year like no other in which the City Council, instead of trying to figure out how to balance the spending with the revenue, has far more revenue than it anticipated due to the American Rescue Plan money.

So the issue with buying additional police cars isn’t a money issue, but a perception issue.  The City Council is under pressure from the left to defund the police, but also under pressure to do something about the rise in violent crime.  The City Council doesn’t want to get a reputation for defunding the police, so by providing the Police Department with raises but not the equipment it needs, it can have its cake and eat it too.

The cost of providing 100 new police cars appears to be about $6 million.  The city staff added in a lot of extra costs in the budget work session, but the actual estimate to purchase and outfit the cars appears to be about $1.2 million per 20 cars. 

So it appears that the actual cost to the city is about $6 million to purchase and outfit 100 new police cars.  That would mean that for about 10 percent of the American Rescue Plan money, Greensboro could get on par with the other cities in the state and provide take home police cars for patrol officers, not over a five-year period, but all at once, and catch up with the other law enforcement agencies in the state.

Councilmembers have said they don’t understand why the police need take home cars.  But Police Chief Brian James says that they do.

When other departments request equipment, the City Council rarely discusses it.  The City Council for instance doesn’t decide how many garbage trucks the city needs, it provides the Field Operations Department with the number the department requests.

One reason James says that he needs take home cars is to help recruit more police officers. Raising the salaries will help with recruitment, but new police officers also want take home cars and can go to any neighboring city and not only get a take home police car but may also start at a higher salary despite the raises in the proposed budget.

The money for additional police cars is available and the main reason not to give James what he says he needs to police the city properly is that the City Council is succumbing to pressure not to properly fund the Police Department and trying to pretend that it isn’t.