Marion Police Department vehicles may become even more visible as the department implements a new policy that will allow some officers to take them home.
Gaining the town council’s approval last week, the MPD is kicking off a part-time Take Home Vehicle Program with an eye toward expanding it in the future.
MPD Chief John Clair told the council that the program will heighten officers’ visibility, present little fiscal impact and serve as a morale boost. He also emphasized that the program will be merit based – the opportunity to participate will be earned. It can also be lost. Clair noted that policy violations or preventable accidents would make an officer ineligible.
Through the Take Home program, Clair said that officers would only be able to take a vehicle home between shifts. In a letter he wrote to Town Manager Bill Rush, Clair explained, “This would allow the officer to arrive for duty fully prepared to work, as opposed to a process of uploading and downloading a vehicle, saving hours of additional compensated time over each pay period.”
Clair also believes the program will “ease longstanding concerns about the misuse of a take home vehicle by only providing it when the officer is returning to work the following day.”
The program will also be limited to officers who live within a five- to 10-mile radius of the town. This restriction would make the program accessible to 50 to 70 percent of the department.
Town Manager Bill Rush noted that the town has worked aggressively to replace police vehicles, which helps make the program possible. He also said that most law enforcement agencies surrounding the MPD offer full vehicle take home programs.
Overall, Clair hopes the benefit may serve as an incentive to reduce employee turnover.
With a recent hire, the MPD is fully staffed.
Last week, he introduced Officer Tyler Hinchey, the newest MPD member.
A native of Southwest Virginia, Hinchey grew up in Meadowview and graduated from Patrick Henry High School. He comes from a law enforcement family with his father, uncle and mother-in-law serving. His wife, Katie, serves as a 9-1-1 dispatcher for Bristol, Va.
Hinchey worked for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office from 2012 to 2018 as a courtroom security officer and patrol deputy.
Hinchey also serves as a volunteer firefighter and EMT-Basic for the Meadowview Fire Department.