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COLUMBUS, Ga. — Interim Police Chief Stoney Mathis has come through once again for our city’s finest after working diligently with city councilors to fix the city’s take-home car policy.
For years, officers of the Columbus Police Department living in neighboring Alabama were unable to drive their work vehicles home across state lines due to the nature of the city’s insurance policy. With roughly ten percent of the force living across the river, the issue has been the root of a serious morale issue that ran in parallel with several others.
The take-home car problem now appears to finally be resolved once and for all, thanks to a new leadership approach combined with a solutions-oriented attitude from officials across the board, which is now beginning to establish a solid track record of positive results for officers.
THE WAIVER ISSUE
When councilors first tried to fix the issue of take-home cars back in July, the results initially left some egregious unintended consequences.
That initial solution involved forcing officers to sign a total liability waiver which indemnified the city from any liability if officers were involved in an accident across state lines. Without being able to place their work vehicles on their personal insurance policies, officers were left to personally absorb that liability if an accident occurred — out of their own pockets.
The problem — and the city’s rationale behind having the waiver — was that neither the Georgia nor Alabama Attorneys General grant sovereign immunity to the driver of a government-owned vehicle if the employee gets into an accident across state lines. As a result, neither ones’ municipal insurance would cover the liability of the accident, leaving the governments on the hook to pay up for damages out-of-pocket.
In true bureaucratic fashion, the city then (wrongfully) assumed that officers would be able to simply add their work vehicles to a private auto insurance policy, despite the fact that officers did not own the vehicles nor hold their titles. To absolve itself from any liability in the event of an accident, the city then penned legislation requiring officers to sign a total liability waiver, inadvertently passing that out-of-pocket liability onto the individual officers themselves.
Rather obviously, that burden didn’t fly too high with our city’s finest, nor with the department’s leadership. Thankfully, officials remained open-minded enough to diligently work together with Mathis to find and implement the right fix — and they did so rather quickly to great effect.
Through common-sense leadership and a knack for empowering those around him to help develop positive solutions, Mathis listened to his officers’ concerns and worked with councilors to find a practical and efficient win-win solution.
As a result, officers will no longer be required to sign a total liability waiver, but will instead be required to take an “initial training course.”
That course would involve informing officers of how to place a “Non-Owner Vehicle” insurance policy — commonly referred to as UNOC — on their work car. It’s both dirt cheap and solves the liability issue.
City Councilor Judy Thomas (District 9) worked closely with Mathis to make sure the city was doing right by its officers. According to Thomas, the UNOC policies can be quoted for as little as $0.61 per month; a very affordable solution that provides liability protection for officers over state lines.
During the city council meeting held on August 8, Thomas proudly made a motion to adopt the revised policy and rescind all previous versions. The motion was quickly seconded by Councilor Charmaine Crabb (District 5) and voted on.
It passed unanimously by all members present, making the policy effective immediately after the vote on August 8.
Job well done, all — especially by the outstanding men and women of the Columbus Police Department who have continued to shell out for our city each and every day as they wait patiently for things to continue to fall into place. You guys are superheroes. Stay the course!
Facts are stubborn things — and we’ll keep publishing them, whether city officials like them or not.
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There has never been a better time to be a Columbus Police Officer! The Columbus Police Department is a state and nationally accredited law enforcement agency dedicated to protecting and serving the citizens of Columbus, Georgia. Become part of a highly trained law enforcement team focused on building and maintaining strong community partnerships that improve the safety and quality of life for every citizen. Join today and protect the promise of a better tomorrow. ProtectColumbus.ColumbusGa.gov