CHARDON, Ohio (AP) - Police in 13 Ohio communities in need of
new patrol cars want to buy cruisers for $1 with advertising on
them despite advice from the state attorney general that it would
be illegal.
Placing ads on police cars creates a potential safety issue and
could leave law enforcement open to a lawsuit, said Kim Norris,
spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Petro.
Although Petro has advised against turning cruisers into rolling
billboards, some cash-strapped departments are still interested.
"If I had my druthers, I'd rather not do something like this,"
said Chardon Police Chief David Hyslop. "But I have a fleet that's
going to wear out, and there's no money in the budget to buy new
cars. The purpose here is to get something I otherwise can't get,
so I'm willing to listen to anything."
Government Acquisitions Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., has contracts
to place ads on emergency vehicles with more than 400 towns across
the nation, according to its Web site.
It's goal is to put more safety vehicles on the road by giving
them to law enforcement agencies for $1 in exchange for placing ads
on them. The program prohibits ads for alcohol, firearms, gambling
and tobacco.
Government Acquisitions has yet to actually place a sponsored
vehicle on the road, but company founder Ken Allison said he
expects to do so before year's end. He said numerous sponsorship
deals are being wrapped up.
Some who have signed up for the program, such as Attica Police
Chief Jeff Briggs, are not optimistic they will get a vehicle.
"I'll believe it when I see it," Briggs said. "But if it ever
comes, we'll put it to use."
Police Chief Randy Sanders of Everman, Texas, said he is getting
skeptical.
"They called just this week and told us there was going to be a
setback because we're a completely residential neighborhood,"
Sanders said.
Petro issued an opinion in March that said putting ads on
sheriff's cars would violate a state law requiring the vehicles to
be uniform statewide. Law enforcement vehicles need to be
unmistakingly identifiable, and commercializing the cars could
cause confusion, according to Petro.
"That's his opinion," said Botkins Police Chief Wayne T. Glass
Jr., who has signed a contract with Government Acquisitions.
The village about 50 miles north of Dayton has a budget deficit
and badly needs to replace a 1996 patrol car with 102,000 miles, he
said.
"There's currently no law in Ohio that tells police on how to
decorate or design their cars other than to have "POLICE" on each
side," Glass said. "We've researched it. We can't find anything
to support Petro's statement."
Petro's office issues legal opinions to law enforcement, but is
not responsible for enforcing them.
If a police department were sued over the ads, it would
ultimately be up to the courts to decide, Norris said.
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On the Net:
http://www.governmentacquisitions.com/

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)