We applaud Denton County Judge Mary Horn for sending a clear message to all county law enforcement officials to keep county vehicles in their assigned precincts, and we believe officials with other governmental entities should follow suit.
Horn’s communiqué followed an e-mail that she sent to a constable who had reportedly used his vehicle to perform off-duty work outside the county.
While allowing constables and deputies to work off-duty jobs is an accepted practice, Horn said she feels that county vehicles should stay where they belong — in the precincts where they are assigned.
She said that after sending the first e-mail, that she sent the same documentation to all law enforcement officials in Denton County.
We feel Judge Horn’s directive is right on point, and we believe that county residents will agree.
What constables and deputies do in their off-duty hours may be their own business, but the use of vehicles paid for and maintained by the taxpayers is another matter.
In most cases, we expect to see those vehicles being used in local jurisdictions, not parked in front of a business or entertainment venue that’s outside the area.
Take-home vehicle policies vary, of course, and occasions do arise when taxpayer-funded vehicles must be used for official business elsewhere, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
In general, we believe that official vehicles should be used for official business, and we don’t believe that filling the tank with gas buys anyone the right to change that rule. When it comes to providing vehicles, there are many expenses that must be considered.
One constable told us that his policy is simple — if deputies work in their own precinct, they can use their vehicle, and if they work outside of the precinct, even if they’re still in the county, he prefers that they not use their vehicles.
Another constable said that he feels that as long as a public service is provided, that it should be fine to use county vehicles off-duty.
What qualifies as a public service may be debatable, but we agree that deputies are far more likely to serve and protect the people who live in their precincts if they stay inside those precincts.
Like we said, we believe that other public officials should follow Judge Horn’s lead and check to make sure that policies regarding official vehicle use are in place and being followed by everyone who is assigned a vehicle.
Such policies can not only save taxpayers money, but they can also reassure citizens that the people they entrust with that money have their best interests at heart.
It never hurts to check the bottom line.