Just been arrested by Toledo police?
You might not have to look too far to find an attorney or bail bondsman - just glance at the rear quarter panel of the officer's marked cruiser.
As of Wednesday, 466 letters have been mailed to businesses announcing a "Patrol Vehicle Sponsorship Program."
Police Chief Mike Navarre said he hopes to send 1,000 letters with response cards that interested businesses can return.
Donate $15,000 to sponsor a new patrol car and your ad will be placed on the vehicle.
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner came up with the idea, which has been done in other cities, said his spokesman, Brian Schwartz. He said the department needs to replace its aging fleet, but the city is in a "budget bind" this year and next.
"You have to look at unorthodox ideas and unorthodox approaches to raising revenues," Mr. Schwartz said. "You don't always want to put it on the shoulders of the taxpayers."
No responses to the proposal have been received. But Chief Navarre said he's had some calls and e-mails from people who think the program is bad, nonprofessional, and degrading.
He doesn't disagree.
Twice before the idea has come up, and he rejected it both times. This time, it's different.
"I do not recall being in a budget predicament [like] today, and we desperately need the cars," the chief said.
He said a new cruiser - complete with lights, siren, screen, and computer - costs about $30,000.
About $350,000 is available in this year's budget for about 13 new cars. The department wants to buy new cars next year, but the chief doesn't know if there will be money available. He said the deficit for 2008 is larger than for this year.
Of the force's approximately 140 marked vehicles, about 100 need to be replaced. A cruiser is good for about four years. Some fleet vehicles are six and seven years old and have up to 200,000 miles. A lot of money is spent on repairs, Chief Navarre said.
He said small departments in the South and West have ads on their vehicles. He is not familiar with large departments that have done this and does not know of any in the Midwest.
A contract specifying the sponsor's and city's obligations would be executed. The ads would stay on the vehicle for the service life of the cruiser, according to a program outline sent with the letter.
"Desirable sponsors," determined by the chief through a formal bid process, will have the chance to share in the cost of a vehicle, the outline states.
The chief will choose the sponsors and ad specifics. Chief Navarre said he would not choose ads for strip clubs or massage parlors. He said he would not oppose addresses and phone numbers on the ads.
The chief said the advertisements would be "very tasteful and consistent."
Different police departments elsewhere have different ads. One stating "In Partnership With" and the sponsor's name appears to be the most popular, the chief said. The ads would be the same size - about three feet by one foot.
Chief Navarre said more letters could hit mailboxes, depending on the response of the first 1,000 letters. Those letters went to past vendors and people who have had a relationship with law enforcement.
The chief said officers will not be allowed to give special privileges to people or businesses who are sponsors.
He said the department will police itself by reviewing reports, citations, and other documents. Any complaints will "be thoroughly investigated," he said.
Chief Navarre said those interested in the program can call police or send an e-mail through the department's Web site at www.toledopolice.com.
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