MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - One in seven Memphis police squad cars was involved in a car crash last year. That same statistic applies to Shelby County sheriff's deputies. The accidents cost taxpayers millions of dollars, but another Mid-South city has nearly eliminated cop car accidents.
"Every vehicle we own has a GPS monitoring device on it," says Olive Branch mayor Sam Rikard. All 170. Olive Branch started monitoring city cars eight years ago.
"It's for safety first, then accountability," Rikard tells abc24.com.
The city uses a mapping system that updates every ten seconds. Dispatchers can see all police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, as well as "all utility workers; the water department, gas department and street department."
Since Olive Branch started tracking, Rikard has seen huge benefits. "We saw a decline in the number of automobile accidents after it was fully implemented."
He can also see if employees are misbehaving. "Early on I would see a speed of police up to 110 mph. I used to get email reports every morning of every vehicle that exceeded 80 mph."
"If it was a police car then chances are 80 was okay and they were responding somewhere valid. Now if it was a water department truck going that, then maybe not."
Over the years, the technology has had a preventative effect now that workers know someone is watching.
It can also help in situations like what happened in Memphis last week where a police car was stolen. It took officers three hours to find it. When they did it was on fire.
"If someone stole a city car we'd know where it was," Rikard says.
MPD has yet to install GPS in squad cars, citing cost.
Olive Branch's devices were $250 per car. "We spend about $50,000 a year monitoring. But again if it prevents one bad accident, if it saves a life, it's certainly worth it."