The parking lot outside the Hermiston Police Department is getting full, but that will be less of a worry for the department this fall.

The department plans on leasing nine Ford SUVs, and modifying another eight existing patrol cars to become take-home vehicles for patrol officers.

There are currently 17 officers who are assigned to patrol, out of the 27 sworn officers who are part of the department.

Police Chief Jason Edmiston said the move came about when he noticed other city departments in Hermiston switching over to take-home vehicles using A program Enterprise Rent-A-Car offers municipalities.

He said he anticipates that the take-home vehicles will each have fewer miles on them. He also said that the vehicles will increase police presence, as more than 60% of the department lives in city limits and will be driving them around.

It’s a way, as Edmiston said, to “work smarter and do more with less” as the population in Hermiston continues to grow and personnel time remains a high expense for the department.

The cost of leasing the vehicles is slightly lower than the annual cost of purchasing new patrol cars, although the costs to upgrading each one represents a small budget increase for the year.

Edmiston said the move would circumnavigate a possible parking lot expansion.

“It’s kind of a trifecta of different things. One of them is a need for a larger parking lot. There’s a lot of people that may have court, and sharing with municipal court gets crowded,” he said.

The records management system has also been upgraded to accommodate smartphones, discontinuing reliance on computers in patrol vehicles. In place of digital cameras and computers, the officers were issued cellphones.

The phones will reduce the amount of time an officer spends at the station preparing photos for incidents.

The move has reportedly caused a buzz on social media about distracted driving, according to Edmiston.

“I would argue that our officers are distracted right now with all the equipment in our vehicles,” he said. “For the most part, I don’t see any changes in regard to how the officers are.”

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