Pension fund could provide police cars

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 21, 2001

Albert Lea police have a problem.

Thursday, June 21, 2001

Albert Lea police have a problem. They’ve got half the number of marked, equipped squad cars as many other cities roughly our size.

Email newsletter signup

While this is not a public-safety catastrophe, it’s a nagging issue that keeps police from operating as efficiently as they could and leaves the city open to larger problems in case of a serious police emergency.

Police say they’ve been asking for extra cars, but so far, City Manager Paul Sparks has been resistant. The force hasn’t expanded, he says, so why should we expand the squad-car fleet?

Well, when officers occasionally are forced to use their own, private vehicles for on-duty use, we can see a need. When vehicles are down for repairs, the need becomes more immediate. And there’s no question that police can be more efficient and effective if they have the ability to be in many places at once.

Sparks, as the administrator of all the city’s departments, says it’s a matter of money. And he’s right; of course, no government service can grow without some cost to taxpayers.

But the city of Albert Lea has what appears to be a ready-made funding source for this particular expense, relatively minor as it is. The multi-million dollar police and fire pension fund, or the interest gained from investing it, can be used by the city for police and fire purposes.

The officers who earned that money have made it clear they want it used for police and fire purposes. Extra squad cars certianly qualifies. While the city rightly has discretion in deciding the best use for the money, this seems like one appropriate expenditure. The city has already earmarked some of that money to offset the cost of emergency sirens and the new water tower, which are borderline police or fire-related.

The police have said they could better do their jobs with a few more vehicles. The money appears to be there. Sparks can’t be faulted for minding the city’s budget, but in this case, it seems like the need is real and a solution is easy to come by.