Written by Brian Maass Denver Police Commanders, driving city take home cars, have been filling their tanks with city gas while on vacation and putting tens of thousands of miles on their city cars when they are off work, costing taxpayers.

“We do get called on vacation, we do need to be available and we do need to respond with that car which is a tool of our job,” said Denver Police Department spokesman Lt. Matt Murray, in response to the CBS4 findings.

Take home cars, that can be used for commuting and unlimited personal use, are provided to officers and commanders who may be called out from home to respond to emergencies. They are not supposed to be provided as a perk or benefit of the job.

DPD refused to reveal precisely how many of its cars are unmarked, take home cars and are used for commuting. Police insiders say the number is around 200 and many are driven by commanders in non- patrol jobs.

“The fact is we need those cars and that equipment to take care of the needs of citizens in an emergency,” said Lt. Murray.

Department records obtained by CBS4 call into question those emergency response claims.

Responding to a Colorado Open Records Act Request, the department provided records showing that Lt. Vince Porter, an administrative aide, has a take home car. He put about 14,000 miles on his car in 2010.

The department says it has no records showing Porter was ever called out for an afterhours emergency in 2010 or 2011.

Then there’s Lt. Pete Conner, who the department also lists as having a take home car. He put about 11,000 miles on his car last year according to department records.

The department says that in all of 2010, Conner had zero emergency call outs from home, and in 2011, he was called out once, for three hours.

CBS4 requested afterhours call out records for 2010 and 2011 for 13 Lieutenants in primarily administrative roles, who the department says are assigned take home cars.

For six of the command officers, the department could provide no evidence the lieutenants ever had to respond from home for either 2010 or 2011.

According to Mary Dulacki, records coordinator for the Department of Safety, “The report I provided to you was derived from a query including all of the officers you named. The officers who are not reflected in the report did not have any call-out codes entered during the time period you requested.”

Dulacki said it’s still possible the officers may have been called out, but she said the department could not find any records to support that.

The records do show that many commanders with take home cars, who do not have patrol assignments, come in repeatedly while on vacation to fuel their cars with city gas and put a large amount of miles on their city cars when they are off work, on vacation time.

Patrol Division Chief David Quinones took vacation time from Nov. 24 through Nov. 29, 2010. Fuel records show he came in and filled his tank while he was off work, on Nov. 28. He put about 200 miles on his department vehicle over the Thanksgiving holiday.

In 2011, during a three day vacation from July 21 through the 23, he came in and fueled up on his first day off, July 21, and put about 50 miles a day on his city car.

“He needs to be available, he can’t predict when something will happen, so if he is on vacation he needs to be able to respond with that car,” said Lt. Murray, “and he needs that car to be gassed and needs it to be available.”

Quinones did not respond to a CBS4 request for information on why he filled up while on vacations or where he traveled in his department car while he was off work.

Fuel records show Division Chief Mary Beth Klee, who oversees the Special Operations Division, was on vacation from July 20 through August 1. Klee stopped by on Wednesday, July 27, and fueled her department car mid-vacation. Klee also did not respond to a CBS4 request seeking an explanation.

Tracie Keesee, the Division Chief overseeing Research and Technology, was off work from August 13 through August 17, 2010. Mileage records show that her unmarked take home car logged 389 miles while she was taking vacation time. Keesee did not respond to an email request for information about how she racked up those miles during her vacation.

While the department insists high ranking commanders need to drive these cars, even on vacation, to be prepared for emergencies, records indicate many commanders with take home cars do not. Fuel and mileage logs suggest numerous command officers park their vehicles while on vacation, and do not log any miles or fill up on gas when they are taking time off.

The miles don’t come cheap either. While the Denver Police Department said it did not have any per mile cost estimates for its cars, the American Automobile Association says keeping these kinds of cars on the road can cost about 50 cents per mile when you figure in fuel, maintenance and depreciation costs.

The federal government estimates the average American drives about 13,000 miles a year. But some of the unmarked take home cars, driven by high ranking commanders who are in non-patrol roles, are logging far more than that.

A Deputy Chief of Administration put 23,731 miles on his car in 2010. The Division Chief in charge of research and training logged 23,313 miles in 2010.

At the triple AAA estimate of 50 cents per mile, those two cars alone cost taxpayers around $25, 000 to keep on the road for two years.

Earlier this week, the department of safety went to City Council saying it needed an additional $7 million added to its 2011 budget. Acting budget director Brendan Hanlon told city council members part of the problem was car costs.

“And a large piece of this is fuel rates and vehicle repair costs…”, said Hanlon.

According to the Mayor’s Office, about $580,000 of that request is due to increased fuel costs for Denver police vehicles and another $400,000 is due to increased vehicle repairs due to the age of the fleet.

“Is there any fat here?” Lt. Murray was asked. “It depends on what response the city wants to have,” replied Murray.

He acknowledged keeping take home cars on the road is expensive, but not as pricey as hiring more cops.

“We know it’s cheaper to have a car regardless of how it’s used than to staff the position with two people. It’s a system we choose that saves money in the end,” said Murray.

Comments (19)
  1. David Burkehardt says:

    You guys honestly have nothing better to report on? Did you ever think that those DPD officers were called in while on vacation and THATS why they fueled up. You guys really need to lay off DPD and the rest of the metro area police. If I was DPD, I wouldn’t ever talk to you guys.

    1. denverbusinessman says:

      Called in while on vacation? Really? When was the last time that ever happened? This is the Denver Police Department… they take care of themselves and milk every last drop of perk, benefit, salary, bonus, pension, including free vehicles and fuel from the Denver taxpayers. Most of the DPD do NOT even live in Denver! DPD takes the position that these perks have to be given out IN THE UNLIKELY event that something happens. I’m a man of numbers and odds and they stack the deck in THEIR OWN favor… DPD is full of you-know-what and Denver taxpayers are getting sick of their greed!

    2. David's Brain on Good Day says:

      David, it’s morons like yourself that allow abuse of power and mismanagement of taxpayer funds to go unchecked. Do everyone a favor and just keep your ignorant opinions to yourself. Better yet, go make a personal donation to the “do whatever the hell you want with my taxes” fund so the rest of us who actually use our brains can put our money towards genuine public needs.

  2. migrant3 says:

    Is the same DPD that wants a taxpayer bailout?

  3. Larry Gomez says:

    Who cares? Of all the stories to report on and this is the best that you could come up with? If I have an emergency in my neighborhood, or God forbid in my home, those cops better have the available equipment with them when they respond on vacation or not.

    1. tpc says:

      Your just an ignorant FOOL!

  4. seaden says:

    I would guess the department has closer to 250 take home cars.

    The Denver Police Department should only allow “Take Home Cars” for those officers that live in Denver and can justify a legitimate need.

    The only reason a command officer would need to be called from home would be a officer seriously injured or killed. Short of that there is no immediate need which can’t be handled by supervisors on site.

    The department runs pretty smoothly Friday-Monday when all the command staff and bureaucrats are off.

  5. BOtheJoker says:

    Isn’t this how the game is played? Certain high-level positions in city, state, and federal government allow you certain percs! Come on, taxpayers! Stop your sniveling!

  6. Virginia says:

    Brian, keep up the good work. News like this should definitely be reported. I am sick of the sense of entitlement that exists today. The government wastes our money and then wants a budget increase. I recall that the Denver officers forfeited their cost of living raise for two years rather than have 100 individuals eliminated. It appears that Obama has certainly set an example for all to follow. I only hope that the new Chief of Police can rectify this type of operation. Obviously the Department is top-heavy in high level positions. It is this type of activity that has resulted in the public demonstrating no respect for the metro Police Departments.

  7. Ashley says:

    In the private sector, employees make their way to and from work in a personal vehicle. If it’s used for work related reasons, the going rate is 50 cents per mile. Why not have them fill out an “expense report- request for reimbersement”, should the unpredictable situation arise? It’s the on duty Sergeant and cops on the street that respond to emergencies and are on the scene well ahead of the rest. The only equipment an off duty Lieutenant or above needs is a gun (they all carry on or off duty) and a cell phone (they almost always get a stipend) and carry that too. This isn’t a danger issue, it’s about budget and using common sense in a bad economy. Lieutenants and above make a VERY nice salary!

    1. Chad L. Oswego NY says:

      Many jobs have work vehicles in the private sectors, even beyond cars, there are planes and helicopters.

  8. ray says:

    And they are worried about where to get money for the cops O.T for Occupy Denver? WASTE,WASTE,WASTE!!! Did they get donuts on vacation too???

  9. Jason says:

    Police vehicles and officers on the roadways (while working or not) are a proven deterrent to crime. The city of Denver should work on MORE “take home” vehicles and encourage officers to drive them. Keep up the good work Denver Police.

    1. Herb says:

      I think you missed the point of the story. These are not marked police cars therefore their presence is not always noticed. Also, If their vacation is out of state how are they going to respond? We could not expect an immediate response from Bailey, Co. where one individual lives. Why not spend the money purchasing new cars or hiring more officers?

      1. tpc says:

        The article said that MOST of the officer never even reported to an emergence while on vacation , you have other people to fill your spot while your on vacation unless you have a national emergency in your state. Some people are just plan stupid!

  10. JT says:

    So, instead of robbing us with BS 2 mile an hour over the limit speeding tickets and lying red light cameras, the stalwart and brave officers of the Denver PD have decided it’s less time consuming to rip us off right to our faces. How very courteous and thoughtful of them. What paragons of virtue.

  11. cbsking says:

    i really cant believe some people think this is ok. these officers are robbing the public, flat out stealing gas! some of these clowns are putting over 20,000 miles on a public car instead of thier own, and all with taxpayer gas. all you need to do is read. one officer was never called in and one was called in for 3 hours. then you have others using public cars for their vacation vehicles, not only gettin paid but driving for free! i know anyone with common sence could trim that bloated budget!

  12. Chad L. Oswego, NY says:

    From someone who grew up with a father as a State police officer with a take home undercover car, we do not give our police force enough benefit of the doubt, although there are some bad seeds, these vehicles are necessary, has anybody every truly looked at the role of a police officer, its much like that of a parent, your job never ends, you are on duty 24-7 and if you see anything or anyone that needs help its your duty to respond, therefore if someone is on duty 24-7, especially when they are salary employees they have a right to drive those vehicles everywhere they go, would you chase a bank robber or serial murderer down the road with your personal vehicle if you just so happened to see the suspect on your way to pick up your dry cleaning? I would assume not, because its your personal vehicle for taking the kids to sports and driving your significant other to the mall…. People, seriously grow up, being a police officer is a hard job which keeps people away from there families and young children for hours, all to protect a public that constantly chastises them until the day they retire, I know for a fact I would never want that job because we are a spoiled nation who has no respect for our fellow citizens doing the truly dirty work so we can sleep safe at night.

  13. Ashley says:

    Comparing state and local police is like comparing apples to oranges. I support and understand law enforcement personnel and the job they do. The odds of having to intervene in a bank robbery in progress are extremely slim. In fact, most officers of the law hide the fact that they are cops because they don’t want to be bothered on their off duty hours. It’s also just as easy for them to call 911 as it is for anyone else no matter where they happen to be and follow the criminal until units arrive. Many jobs are hard. All jobs keep you away from your family and young children for hours. However, I am a business owner who pays a ridiculous sum of money in taxes each year. I respect the department but think 980,000 spent in this way is also ridiculous.

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