MONROE COUNTY (CBS4/Herald) – Jobs provide many perks. One perk of being a Monroe County deputy: saving on gas by taking home your patrol car.

However, since June 1st, newly-hired Monroe County deputies and deputies who moved to Miami-Dade County have been feeling pain at the pump, just like the rest of us.

CBS4’s news partner The Miami-Herald reports that changes to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office policy of taking home a patrol car means those deputies will have to use their own vehicles for their daily commutes.

Many companies have cut back or eliminated perks in recent years to save money. That’s not the case here.

“The goal is to get all our cars back into the county,” said Chief Lou Caputo, head of the Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Bureau.

The move will not immediately impact deputies already living outside Monroe County, said Col. Rick Ramsay. Those deputies are still allowed to take their patrol cars home, and Sheriff’s Office leadership would give them six months’ notice in the event that policy changes.

Deputies who move to Miami-Dade County will not be able to take their cars home at the end of their shifts.

Ramsay said the Sheriff’s Office wants to “phase cars out of Dade County through attrition.” But he said it would be unfair to subject veteran deputies living outside the Keys to the new policy right now.

“They’re actually getting six months’ protection they didn’t have before,” said Ramsay, who is running for sheriff this year. “We’re setting the tone for new people in the future. But we don’t want 20 qualified officers to quit in one month.”

Ramsay and Caputo said the idea of letting deputies living in Miami-Dade take home their work cars was in part a recruiting incentive implemented more than 20 years ago to attract qualified officers in Florida City and Homestead to work for the Sheriff’s Office.

“We didn’t have much of an applicant pool back then,” Ramsay said.

But now, anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of the 174 sworn officers working for the Sheriff’s Office live in Miami-Dade, and the Sheriff’s Office wants more of its officers to live in the Keys, Ramsay said.

The change in the take-home car policy was negotiated between the Sheriff’s Office and the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, Caputo said.

Ramsay said overall, the Sheriff’s Office, and most state police agencies, view taking home cars as an effective policy. The other alternative is to leave cars at the station and have officers from all shifts using the same car. This puts a strain on the vehicles and shortens the number of years they can be used on patrol, Ramsay said.

“This way we can get four or five years out of our patrol cars. Then they can become unmarked vehicles and be used by our detectives and administrative staff,” Ramsay said.

He added that it is also good for neighborhood security when deputies park their cars at home.

According to the current policy, officers living in Miami-Dade cannot take their cars past the Snapper Creek Expressway Service Plaza, which is 38 miles from the Monroe County line. Deputies who live north of there can drive their patrol cars as far as the Florida Highway Patrol station at the service plaza, and drive their personal vehicle home from there.

Also, the out-of-county policy applies only to deputies serving in Key Largo and Islamorada. All deputies serving the Lower and Middle Keys who live in Miami-Dade can only drive their patrol cars as far north as the Plantation Key substation. Those deputies have the option of parking their personal vehicle at the substation and picking up their patrol car there, Ramsay said.

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