DADE CITY — In an effort to retain quality staff, the Dade City Police Department is exploring a take-home squad car policy that it hopes will keep more sworn officers on the job.
On Tuesday evening, the City Commission unanimously approved police Chief Ray Velboom's request to apply for a $100,000 federal stimulus grant.
Between those funds, another grant and existing revenue, the department will be able to buy six additional vehicles, more than enough to grant each officer a personal squad car.
It's a perk offered by other local agencies. Velboom said it will give Dade City an attractive edge in recruiting and retaining officers.
In the past four months, the department has lost two officers to other agencies.
"Both of them have left for money," Velboom said.
One went to the Tampa Police Department, which offers a starting salary more than $10,000 higher than Dade City's $35,500 wage for beginning officers. The Tampa Police department also assigns take-home cars after a year on the job.
Velboom said the other officer left for the Pasco Sheriff's Office, which he said paid almost a dollar more per hour and also gave out take-home squad cars.
Currently, 14 of the Dade City Police department's 24 officers, including the administrative staff, K9 units and patrol sergeants, are assigned vehicles.
The idea of outfitting the entire staff was greeted positively by the commission.
"Anything we can do to retain officers," said City Commissioner Steve Van Gorden.
Velboom was confident the grant application would be approved and said he expects to see the grant funds by September.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.