A surprise policy banning first responders from taking home cars at a Green Country community has some in uproar.
Pawhuska police chief Nick Silva said this started last week when the city manager floated the idea to fire some dispatchers and transfer others to the sheriff’s officer.
After public outcry, the plan was put on hold.
The chief said he got a letter Tuesday announcing officers will no longer be allowed to take their cruisers home, which he thinks is in retaliation.
Silva said losing the ability to take home police cars would be detrimental.
“If we have a rape case, my investigator and I will have to go to Pawhuska, pick up our cars, and then go to Tulsa where the victim will be examined,” he explained. “I don’t see the logic.”
City Manager Dave Neely said the policy will apply anyone who doesn’t live in city limits. It includes the fire chief, EMS director and other city departments.
“It’s a cost saving measure,” Neely said. “We got a lot of folks driving vehicles out of the city limits.”
Neely didn’t address the new policy at Tuesday’s city council meeting but said that leaving the roughly 15 cars in city limits would save the city more than $20,000 a year.
“As far as safety issue, I don’t believe we’ve got a safety issue,” said Neely.
Silva disagrees. He said they recruit the best officers, meaning some live out of city limits.
“To do that, you have to recruit a lot of agencies in the area, and we recruit using take home cars,” Silva said.
Police officers couldn’t speak at city council but invited residents to speak up at a gun law forum afterward. Residents like Byron Cowan said the policy is a safety concern.
“If an officer lives out of town and has to drive out of town to and go to the police department, that increases response time and it may be too long,” said Cowan.
Silva said Neely has also talked about moving their dispatchers to the sheriff’s office, which he said would slow down response times.
Chief Silva said he is turning to social media and public forums to share his concerns since the city doesn’t have an HR department.
“This is a bad idea,” said Silva.
The city manager said he is giving employees a 50 cent per hour raise to make up for the new policy, which goes into effect Jan. 1.
Silva said he has reached out to the FBI’s corruption division.