South Jax Police Chief comments on village squad car issue

By Ryne Turke on June 16, 2016 at 12:58pm

South Jacksonville’s Police Chief is sharing his thoughts on the issues surrounding the purchase of a new village squad car.

On Wednesday we aired part one of this story, which featured comments from trustees Stacy Pinkerton and Kem Wilson, who claim there is a lack of communication going on at Village Hall.

Part of the alleged problems between trustees, the mayor and clerk, stem from nearly an hour of discussion that led to ten items being removed from the June 2nd agenda. One of the items, a 2014 Dodge Charger, was the vehicle selected to replace the totaled squad car driven by Officer Scot Fitzgerald during his fatal accident.

Several trustees noted during the meeting that a check for the squad car was written before the board had an opportunity to vote on the 2016-2017 budget. Chief Josh Hallock confirmed the police department received the check on May 23rd and explains the events that led up to the purchase of the vehicle.

“I’ve been discussing the issue with Mayor Waltrip for quite some time, letting him know the car involved in the accident wasn’t salvageable. We discussed replacing the car and at the time we talked about it being an insurance claim. I spoke with him before a village meeting about a month ago and he encouraged me to have the office cut a check for the purchase of the car, as soon as the dealer we get the squad cars from could have one ready. That set the wheels in motion for me,” says Hallock.

Hallock says the squad car issue is a very rare instance for a village to handle.

“Nobody really gives you a manual of rules when you find yourself in the position I found myself in. I kind of had to learn as we go. All along, the intentions have been best for the police department and the village of South Jacksonville. There was no intent to try and go around any barriers or anything like that. The discussions on the squad car in committee meetings were positive. There was no real indication to me that the events that took place were even on the horizon,” Hallock notes.

As for the insurance issues regarding the totaled squad car that trustees brought up…

“It seemed to me I was being accused of refusing to work with insurance company. I have the email conversations with the insurance adjuster I am working with. I’m not sure where trustee Wilson’s information came from, that I was not willing to work with anybody. It was just a matter of time, because we had to go through the car, inventory the damaged equipment and request a quote from our local supplier of equipment for the replacement cost of those items. It has been as positive of an experience that it could possibly be,” says Hallock.

According to Hallock, the South Jacksonville Police Department fleet includes six marked cars, three of which have “heavy mileage” on them.

Hallock says a replacement car was a priority because each full time officer is issued a personal squad car.

The new squad car was priced at $18,250.

A special meeting and two committee sessions will be held tonight to discuss the squad car and equipment, fire truck options and budget in more detail. The first meeting starts at 7 p.m.