Looking to address its vehicle shortage, the Buffalo Police Department plans to lease several new vehicles instead of purchasing them.
Police were given funding in last year’s city budget to purchase 14 new vehicles, but officers at Tuesday’s Police Oversight Committee meeting revealed they’ve yet to do it. They said it’s because they’ve decided to lease the vehicles instead.
Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo told Common Council members that officers can lease approximately 26 vehicles for the price of buying 14 vehicles.
“So we’re in essence adding 12 additional vehicles by reserving that money to apply toward a lease as opposed to a purchase,” he said, adding police could then purchase the vehicles as a reduced rate of roughly $5,000 once the lease is over.
Proposals on a lease deal were due Friday. Officers now plan to review the proposals and select one. The Common Council would then have to approve the deal.
Council members expressed some surprise about the change in plan Tuesday, but Council Member Christopher Scanlon said they’ll likely approve the lease deal as long as it truly saves money.
“We’ll follow up to make sure that number is accurate and if those are enough to operate,” he added. “We just want to make sure there’s enough vehicles for the men and women of the Buffalo Police Department to get out and provide the public safety that we have to.”
Buffalo police have 190 vehicles, but 56 are currently out of service and in need of repair, officers said Tuesday.
The Buffalo police union has criticized the department for the vehicle shortage, saying it sometimes makes it difficult for officers to respond to incidents. Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans told WBFO in November that the department needs about 60 new vehicles.
In addition to leasing 26 new vehicles, Rinaldo said Tuesday that police still plan to purchase another 20 vehicles as part of funding in Mayor Byron Brown’s 2020 capital budget.
Police also face a mechanic shortage at their Seneca Street garage. There are currently six mechanics and three openings, according to Rinaldo. That doesn’t include the garage’s superintendent and couple supervisors, he added.
“We fill all of our open positions as quickly as we can,” he said. “There’s a process between civil service examination, there’s a process between interviewing, somebody may take a leave of absence … This is the ebb and flow of personnel issues that the city experiences.”
Council members questioned how much the mechanics are paid, but police did not immediately provide a figure. Scanlon suggested the city may have to consider increasing wages to cut down on turnover in the garage.
“Obviously if a car goes down, we have to have someone there who can work on it and get it back into circulation so it’s imperative we fill those jobs,” he said. “If we have to look at adjusting the salary of those positions in order to attract qualified people, maybe that’s something we have to look at.”