November 19th, 2007
Mass. officials eye sponsor-a-cruiser ad program
By Mike Underwood
Melrose is mulling plans to slap advertising on cop cars to boost law-enforcement funding.
Officials have asked local businesses if they would be interested in sponsoring new cruisers to replace a fleet of aging vehicles that is “falling apart.”
“I don’t want a police car looking like a NASCAR, but I’m also a realist and I know we can’t maintain the fleet unless we act creatively,” said Mayor Robert Dolan.
The city is basing its plan on the town of Littleton, which has been running an identical program since 2005. ``We spoke with the police chief there and the town manager and they felt it worked for them,” said Dolan.
Businesses would pay $15,000 a year for three years to cover the cost of leasing a new police cruiser under the deal. The cash saved would help pay for manpower on the streets to tackle crime and drug issues, Dolan added.
He said the sponsorship program also would include the fire department, which hasn’t had a new firetruck since 1986.
Melrose police chief Mike Lyle brought the Littleton program to the city’s attention. ``If we can buy a cruiser in a different manner we are saving police officers and saving manpower,” he said.
Officials in Littleton, who did not return calls for comment, took the leap in 2005 when police chief John M. Kelly got approval from the Board of Selectmen to push the program. But a watchdog organization has reservations.
“It is preposterous. It trivializes the police in some sense, but also undermines their legitimate claims to authority,’’ said Robert Weissman, director of Commercial Alert, an advertising watchdog group in Washington, D.C.
The Boston Police Department said it would not consider renting advertising space on its cruisers, which currently promote the department’s Crimestoppers number.