Frisco Town Council to move forward with police vehicle take home policy in effort to retain officers

A Frisco Police Department vehicle is parked outside town hall. The Frisco Town Council discussed a take home vehicle policy for the police department Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.
Ryan Spencer/Summit Daily News

Officers at the Frisco Police Department could soon be allowed to take their department-issued vehicles home with them after work each day.

Frisco Town Council members expressed interest in the police department’s proposed take-home vehicle policy at its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 14, after a discussion about the costs and benefits of the policy.

“One of the largest struggles with the (police department) since I’ve been here that we’ve seen is recruitment and retaining officers,” Frisco Police Sgt. Tim Robinson said. “With agencies in our backyard or surrounding areas providing these types of benefits already, this is something that we’re looking to do to try to stay competitive with those agencies.”

During the 2024 budget process, the Police Department presented a request to purchase five take-home vehicles for $428,500, according to a staff memo included in the town council’s agenda packet. 

The Town Council voted earlier this year to include the funds for the vehicle purchase in the 2024 budget but directed staff to return to the council for further discussion before authorizing the purchase.

Remaining competitive in order to attract new officers is the main reason for the proposed take-home vehicle policy. The town currently has four recruits at the police academy, and all four have been heavily recruited by other agencies in the county over the past few months while training, the memo states.

The average length of employment as a Frisco Police Officer was about 2.5 years since 2017, Robinson said Tuesday. He noted many police officers live outside Summit County because the cost of living is so high here.

Chief Tom Wickman said it takes at least five years in town before an officer knows all the ins and outs of a department and the area. Wickman noted that the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, Avon Police Department and Eagle Police Department all have policies allowing officers to take vehicles home.

Wickman also said that the Summit County Sheriff’s Office recently upped its pay for police academy sponsored cadets to about $79,000, over $10,000 more than what the Frisco Police Department currently pays those recruits.

The Frisco Police Department currently has six vehicles for about 13 police officers, including the four currently at the police academy, Wickman said. A fully staffed department would have 14 officers, he said.

“The benefits of this program don’t only just stem to the cops and the officers themselves,” Robinson said. “You see an immediate quicker response for emergent-type calls, which honestly, we’ve been seeing more and more of working in this county.”

During a recent police standoff in a Frisco supermarket parking lot, for example, one of the officers was driving up to Summit County from his home in the Denver metro area, Robinson said.

Because this officer had his police vehicle, he didn’t have to go to the police department to get his vehicle and equipment but instead could start fielding calls as soon as he exited the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels, Robinson noted.

“Without that (take-home vehicle) there probably would have been another hour or so before we had a cop on the streets to handle the surrounding calls — at a minimum — just for him getting there, getting his car up, fitted with everything, getting all this gear on all that stuff,” Robinson said. “So the community sees a benefit just from that: us being able to respond faster.”

Since the department started allowing officers to take vehicles home as part of a trial program, Robinson said, “we’ve had multiple incidents where an officer driving to work has been able to assist another agency and even has been the first on scene to roll up on a rollover accident.”

Council member Lisa Holenko raised concerns about liability for the town of Frisco if an officer were to get involved in an incident — such as a shooting — elsewhere in the state while operating from a take-home vehicle.

Wickman noted that, under the town’s proposed policy for take-home vehicles, “an officer shall not initiate enforcement actions except those circumstances where potential threat to life or serious property damage exists.”

Council member Andrew Aerenson questioned whether there were more economical ways for officers to share vehicles while also taking them home and if the policy of one vehicle for each officer is the best way to go.

Robinson said that the department currently keeps its vehicles for five years before replacing them. But because the take-home vehicles will be driven only on the days when an officer is at work, rather than 24/7 by whatever officer is on duty, he said he expects the lifespan of the take-home vehicles to be closer to eight or nine years.

Aereneson noted the town has lots of staff positions that are hard to fill and asked why police should get a take-home vehicle as part of their employment incentive when other town positions don’t.

“We have to provide police officers with more than any other difficult job to fill because that is a difficult job,” council member Andy Held said. “… That’s why I think no matter what, we have to give them more than anybody.”

Even as the town council discussed the take-home vehicle policy, there appeared to be some agreement between the council members that a raise for the department’s police officers would likely be necessary as part of next year’s budget to keep pace with raises at other law enforcement agencies in the area.

The town council discussed whether there should be a geographic boundary for how far take-home vehicles could be taken outside the county. Council member Holenko also expressed interest in further refining the language of the take-home vehicle policy. 

Mayor Hunter Mortensen noted that the council members all seemed to be supportive of the take-home vehicles for police and proposed the council put the item on a future agenda. He said that the council can work out the details of the related policy and whether there should be a geographic limit to the take-home vehicles in the months it will take for the new vehicles to arrive.

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