For two years, Milford Town Marshal Rich Miotto has peppered town council meetings with the request he and the department’s deputies be permitted to have take-home vehicles. Time and time again the council has objected.
Now, Milford’s three council members are requesting taxpayer input on the issue.
Miotto brought up the request again recently during a 2013 budget workshop and, informally, at the July 9 regular council meeting. At that time he provided members with a case study and other research regarding the practice.
“When I go to meetings with other chiefs, especially, they just can’t believe it,” Miotto told the council. “It’s standard procedure just about everywhere you go.”
Take-home vehicles are common law enforcement policy these days for chiefs and marshals alike. Milford Town Council members, particularly president Doug Ruch, say in many of those cases the chief, or marshal, and the officers live within the town limits while Marshal Miotto’s primary residence is in Warsaw. But local departments say otherwise.
According to Syracuse Police Chief Tony Cirello, all Syracuse officers take home police cars, even though they do not have to live in town but rather within a 15-mile radius of town. All but one North Webster officers take home cars, and also do not have the requirement they live within town limits, according to chief Greg Church. Silver Lake, Claypool and Pierceton officers as well are allowed to take their patrol vehicles home, as does Mentone.
In every case, departmental policies stipulate expressly the vehicle is for work purposes only, not for personal errands. Gas is paid by the city or town.
Church said because North Webster is a small department and only one officer is on duty at a time, if that officer needs assistance then off-duty officers are expected to respond. For that reason, he thinks take-home vehicles are a valuable policy.
According to Milford ordinance 2011-6, the Milford Town Marshal and his deputies may reside anywhere in Kosciusko County. Standard operating procedures, which govern the Milford Police Department, state only the town council president can give permission – which must be in writing – for an officer to take a vehicle home, however.
Giving Miotto a take-home vehicle would open the door to the department needing three cars, Ruch said. He’s also concerned about the approximately 12-minute response time it takes Miotto to drive from home to the town.
“If you want to decrease response time to a situation, give an officer a car where he can turn on the lights and sirens and get here faster,” Miotto responded. “I can’t speed in my own personal vehicle.”
One allegation leveled at Miotto in response to the request is there have been occasions when Miotto’s assistance was requested, while he was off duty, but he did not come to the scene.
While Kosciusko County Communication Director David Rosenberry didn’t have the data on hand Tuesday to prove it has never happened, such a scenario doesn’t seem likely, he said.
“If he was off duty he’d only be called on a major crime,” Rosenberry said. “Our policy is that if no Milford officer is on duty and something happens, then a county officer is called. If all of the county officers are busy, then we’d probably call him in.”
If dispatch does place such a call, Rosenberry noted, it could also happen Miotto would receive it while he was any distance away from home on a personal activity.
Miotto agreed that dispatch does not call him in to assist often, but he frequently does so anyway because the Milford deputy on duty will call him directly.
On July 9, fellow town council members Dan Cochran and Bob Cockburn asked for more time to review the issue and to hear from constituents. The matter will come before the council again at its next meeting, at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13.