Patrol Cars Expanded Despite Budget Crisis
Last month, the city of Missoula was faced with a budget crisis. Bush-league mayor John Engen proposed they dip into a reserve fund to help pay for raises for the council, himself, and a few other squandering projects he has in mind. This was met with resistance by one council member who refused to let the budget be voted on as a whole. In the end, Mayor Engen was able to get his way and the entire budget was passed with one vote.
One of the key items that Missoulians wanted addressed with this budget was the seemingly lack of patrol cars out on the streets. Missoula Police has reported that at any time, there are five patrol units on the streets, as well as bicycles and motorcycles. The people of Missoula have argued that this isn't enough of a police state, they want more units on patrol like a modern day version of Robocop.
The council was unable to afford the luxury of perceived security by using tax dollars to hire new officers. They've stated that the most important thing to do with tax dollars is to build roundabouts and give themselves raises. They were willing to accommodate a suggestion by councilman Rick Effberg, who proposed that we put out six patrol cars at a time, and allow them to Uber and Lyft while on duty. The idea was laughed at, initially, until Engen realized how much money he could free up from the budget and allow himself to throw it at random, useless projects he feels necessary.
Starting in November, the Missoula Police will be adding themselves to the Lyft and Uber rosters, while serving and protecting the community. This was presented as a way to show the community that the police care about their safety, their well-being, and their taxi needs. The rate for a patrol car to pick up a rider is the same, however the driver doesn't get all of the money. Mayor Engen has stepped on the contracts and will be receiving 20% of each fare and allotting a two-gallon/day fuel budget for each officer. At the same time, he's slashed the budget for the Missoula Police, as they're now self-sufficient. He's rumored to have stated that if they want to make money, they need to hit the streets. This may set the pace for other cities to enact similar rules. Casper, WY Police have shown interest in the program and there are confirmed reports of contact between the two departments.
Keep an eye out for the new Uber and Lyft patrol cars hitting the streets. For an extra tip, they may even hit the siren and speed through town.