THE FOLLOWING IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR NOPD EMPLOYEES:
The New Orleans Police Department, like many other police departments, issues take-home vehicles to some employees. In fact, the NOPD intends to expand the number of take-home vehicles in use by department employees soon. Recently, the NOPD ordered the first 100 of 400 new police vehicles which will be issued to FTO’s and platoon personnel. For those officers who are issued take-home vehicles or may be issued take-home vehicles in the future, it is imperative that these officers understand the City’s take-home vehicle policy or risk personal liability in connection with these vehicles.
CAO Policy Memorandum 5(R) states that the NOPD can assign marked take-home vehicles to officers who live in Orleans Parish and travel to and from work to that location in Orleans Parish. Otherwise, officers must live in Orleans Parish and have less than a 40-mile commute and be available and regularly called out on a 24-hour basis (think unmarked cars for detectives). CAO Policy Memo 5(R) further states that officer assigned take-home vehicles can only use these vehicles for official purposes, including details, with one big exception. Officers assigned take-home cars are allowed to use these vehicles for personal use when they are incidental to driving to or from work. In other words, an officer can stop at the cleaners on the way home to pick up clean uniforms, assuming the dry cleaners is not in Tangipahoa Parish.
City vehicles should not be used to perform personal business. However, in some instances, take-home vehicles may be used to perform incidental, personal errands outside the course and scope of City business, so long as the errands are conducted to and from work without significant deviation, are brief in nature, and do not detract from the employee’s activities as a public servant.
This leads to the BIG CATCH. The City is self-insured. As such, it regulates its own insurance policies in conjunction with state law. With regard to take-home vehicles, if an officer uses the vehicle for personal use, including driving to and from details, the City WILL NOT PROVIDE INSURANCE COVERAGE OR REPRESENTATION in the event of an accident and a lawsuit.
Such limited personal use, while permitted, does not fall under any coverage provided by the City’s self-insurance program.
CAO Policy Memo 5(R) Sec. XVI, Paragraph F reads as follows:
Insurance: Each Department or Authorized External User, authorized by contract, will require that every employee with a take-home vehicle provide a copy of their current personal automobile insurance policy or their current personal non-owned automobile insurance policy to the Appointing Authority. It shall be the responsibility of each department to ensure that insurance policies or proof of insurance coverage are submitted as they are renewed. Copies shall be provided to the City’s Risk Manager.
Vehicle use outside the scope and purpose of employment by the City, whether permissible or not, is not covered by the City’s self-insurance program. [Note that Authorized External Users are not covered by the City’s self-insurance program – See Certificate of Insurance Letter] Every employee with a take- home vehicle must endorse their current Personal Automobile Policy to provide coverage for Non-Owned Autos, including Physical Damage Coverage and provide evidence of the coverage in force. Minimum personal automobile insurance coverages and limits required of employees with take-home autos are as follows:
i. Automobile Liability, Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability – Mandatory State Minimum Financial Responsibility Limits.
ii. Uninsured Motorist – No less than the Minimum Financial Responsibility limits, or your liability limits, whichever is greater.
iii. Comprehensive and Collision – Any deductibles will be the sole responsibility of the employee and will not be borne in any way by the City, for damage due to accidents outside the scope and purpose of employment by the City.
iv. Non-owned coverage including Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability and Physical Damage (“Comprehensive” and “Collision”).
Any employee with a take-home vehicle that does not own a personal vehicle or have a Person Automobile Insurance Policy in force must purchase a Personal Non-Owned Automobile Liability and Physical Damage Coverage (“Comprehensive and Collision”).
The Auto Liability limits shall be at least the Mandatory State Minimum Financial Responsibility Limits for bodily injury and property damage. Any deductibles will be the sole responsibility of the employee and will not be borne in any way by the City, for damage due to accidents outside the scope and purpose of employment by the City.
Police Officer Jason Samuel was involved in an automobile accident driving his take-home police car on November 14, 2010. Officer Samuel was on his way home from a detail when, while sitting at a red light, his foot slipped off the brake and he struck the vehicle in front of him. Fortunately for Officer Samuel, he was a member of the FOP Legal Defense Plan. The City Attorney’s office advised Officer Samuel that they would not be representing him in connection with the lawsuit following this accident. Officer Samuel’s insurance company told him the same thing. Officer Samuel was ultimately represented by Tony Livaccari, Livaccari Law, through the FOP Legal Defense Plan. While the FOP Legal Plan provided Officer Samuel an attorney, it did not pay the settlement in the matter. Ultimately, that would end up costing Officer Samuel more than $5,000.00.
Police Officer Robert Ponson is in the same boat. Officer Ponson was involved in an accident on the way home from a detail and was involved in an accident in his assigned take-home vehicle. Officer Ponson was also advised that the City Attorney would not provide him with representation since he was on the way home from a detail. His insurance company indicated the City should be representing him. Again, the FOP Legal Plan will be providing representation for Officer Ponson.
It is imperative that officers who are assigned a take-home vehicle call their insurance agents or insurance companies and arrange for non-owned vehicle coverage. Officers should make the situation perfectly clear. If the insurance company does not write that coverage, then the officer needs to either get an additional non-owned vehicle policy, change insurance companies, or give the take-home vehicle back.
Officers have to understand that their personal assets are exposed should they get in an accident if they are not properly insured. It is simply not worth the risk to operate a take-home vehicle if the security of the officer’s family is compromised. Soon, the NOPD will be offering 400 take-home vehicles to officers who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be assigned a vehicle. The temptation will be strong. Leaving the car at the station is not an option if the car will be used to drive to and from details. The bottom line is get the insurance or give the car back and make sure you belong to the FOP and the FOP Legal Defense Plan.