A local police department will be getting a new style of vehicle for policing efforts soon. The Jacksonville City Council approved the purchase of a new gas-powered golf cart for the Jacksonville Police Department during their first meeting of the month of May.
It will be the first style of multi-purpose vehicle in the fleet for Jacksonville’s police department that will be used for a variety of situations and opportunities.
Police Chief Adam Mefford explains that the former use of bicycles for policing in situations in the downtown area and at special events has become antiquated and expensive. “The bike patrol officers have to be specially trained. We also have to be able to transport those bicycles around the community. We still use them for special events but they’ve just become not as an important tool as they once were. Not that they aren’t important anymore, we just don’t have the amount of officers trained up for their use.”
Mefford explains how the golf cart will be used. “We’ll use it for patrol of the parking lots for the bars on Friday and Saturday night. Typically, we do that on foot and we do it with squad cars. Sometimes we need to move relatively quickly from place to place in the evenings. Going back to a car or walking on foot can take an amount of unnecessary time. We’ll use the golf cart to expedite that process. Also, we’ll be using it for lake patrol. Now that there are golf cart paths in at the lake, there has been some concern over the safety of pedestrians walking and bicyclists using the path. We just want to use it as a presence out there – kind of like blending in with the community out there. We’ll use the golf cart to patrol those areas as a visual deterrent. We’ll also use it for parade details and other community-oriented policing and major events like the fair.”
Mefford says it will be a valuable community tool throughout the year. “It’s a valuable tool as far as community policing. What it does is that it adds that openness of the officer. Where in a squad car, maybe they are closed off to the community. They’re not maybe as approachable versus someone sitting on a golf cart, where you can walk right up to it. We have the Morgan County Fair where we put in a lot of hours there and the Fourth of July ceremony at Nichols Park. There’s just so many events where we are directly seen by the public.”
Mefford says it will also be a morale boost for the police department and something fun for officers who are taking on extra duties and hours.
Mayor Andy Ezard says that the golf cart is online with the trends of the community and public safety. Ezard details benefits of having a golf cart in the police’s fleet. “The police department are very present in our community. They are definitely out and about. They do a heck of a job. If it’s something small like being in a parade or passing out candy, then the golf cart does serve a good purpose. It’s not on the taxpayer dime. It’s coming from the drug fund, which is even better, because we don’t have to pay for it.”
Jacksonville residents should be able to easily spot the new vehicle, as it will be fitted with the Jacksonville Police Department logo, fully functional lights, and adhere to all the rules and regulations that residents must have on their own golf carts to operate on city streets. Residents can expect the cart to be out and about before the end of the month.