Turn off AC, walk, Arundel tells police

July 02, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun Reporter

In the latest instance of fuel-price-conscious government agencies looking to save money, Anne Arundel County officials are urging police officers to increase foot patrols and refrain from using cruisers' air conditioning as ways to cut down on gasoline use.

County Executive John R. Leopold and Police Chief Col. James Teare Sr. said yesterday that officers will also be asked to stop idling, to cut vehicle weight by eliminating unnecessary items and to carpool when possible to crime scenes and training exercises.

Officers were asked not to use air conditioning unless it is "oppressively hot," though they were also told to roll up the windows when driving faster than 55 mph to cut drag and increase gas mileage.

The move follows the county Sheriff's Department's recall last month of about a third of the agency's fleet of take-home cars. Deputies now must drive from their homes to headquarters to pick up the vehicles. Across the country, police departments and other government agencies are implementing similar cost-cutting strategies.

"In an effort to minimize the current strain on our county budget, we must look for tangible ways to conserve fuel, while maintaining the level of service provided by public safety officials," Leopold said.

"As the largest consumer of fuel in the county, the Anne Arundel County Police Department is committed to exercising accountability and responsibility for the resources we consume," Teare said. "These fuel-saving measures will not solve the fuel price crisis, but we must continue to spend taxpayer dollars responsibly whenever and wherever possible."

The most difficult option in a sprawling, suburban county like Anne Arundel might be an increased focus on foot patrols. The U.S. Justice Department warned in a memo that gas-saving measures could reduce police services, according to a report in USA Today.

"When you put people on foot, they can only cover small areas, and the response time is only as fast as they can run," Houston Police Department Chief Harold Hurtt told the newspaper.

But O'Brien Atkinson, president of Anne Arundel's police union, said officers understand the need for the measures and will support them as best they can.

"The reality is that the police officers on the street are thinking about a million things other than gas conservation, but when a suggestion like this comes from the county executive and the chief, our police officers listen," Atkinson said. "They ... understand the crisis as it stands, and with all the things going on across the country, I think this is probably one of the more reasonable approaches I've seen to fuel conservation."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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