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Youngstown police take-home vehicle violations under review

About 40 of 150 members of the police department have take-home cars even though only 15 of the force's cars are classified as take-home cars.
Via pixabay

YOUNGSTOWN — The city's law office and mayor will review the use of city vehicles by the Youngstown Police Department after apparent policy violations were revealed at last week's safety committee meeting.

About 40 of 150 members of the police department have take-home cars even though only 15 of the force's cars are classified as take-home cars.

At the meeting, 6th Ward Councilwoman Anita Davis and Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees reviewed the list of people in the police department who are able to take home cars. 

According to the city’s ordinance, 113 city-owned vehicles are assigned to the police department to be used for official city business.

Fifteen of those vehicles are permitted to be used for personal and business use if the worker is on 24-hour call. The remainder of the cars are limited to assigned hours or shared among multiple people in the department.

Lees said during the meeting that there are a variety of reasons take-home cars would be available to people in the department. 

As of now, nine SWAT team members use take-home cars. SWAT team members are not included in the ordinance for city vehicles but Lees said they also have patrol division or vice squad assignments, which means they can take home cars. Lees also said the SWAT team members get called out frequently because they cover Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Two SWAT team members with take-home cars will retire in August, and Lees said he does not plan to assign anyone to those cars.

The department is allowed to use five city vehicles for K9 officers who have to care for the dogs. Four K9 officers are assigned to take-home cars, but at least two of them do not live in Youngstown. Lee said in the meeting that the officers have been allowed to take home the cars because they have to take care of the dogs. 

The vice squad allows six officers to take home cars because the officers are assigned for daily duties of going to the courthouse, the prosecutor’s office and making rounds in the city. Eight of the take-home cars are used by internal affairs, the chief and the chief's office, Lee said.

Lees said during the meeting that take-home cars can have a positive impact on neighborhoods, and the cars can be better cared for than if they are parked in a lot. He did not respond to requests from Mahoning Matters for further comment.

Davis agreed that the police cars can have an impact on the neighborhood, but she said during the meeting she was concerned that cars are going outside of the city, which can create liability issues for the city.

The violations are set to be reviewed by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and Law Director Jeff Limbian.

Limbian said the mayor plans to make some adjustments in the coming months around workers having take-home cars in all city departments, including the police department.

“I know he continues to move forward with his plan to limit the use and abuse of take home cars,” Limbian said.

Ellen Wagner

About the Author: Ellen Wagner

Ellen Wagner reports on municipal services and budget cuts in Youngstown. She is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.
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