Memphis mulling fender-bender fee? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Memphis mulling fender-bender fee?

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is considering proposing a fender-bender fee in an effort to free up police manpower.

The "incident fee" would be charged whenever an officer is called to a minor accident.

"Why not charge an incident fee, cause we're doing it basically for the insurance companies," Mayor Wharton said. "It's not doing a real public safety function."

It's all about time. MPD gets an accident call and the nearest car is dispatched. After the officers arrive they take statements, survey the scene, determine who's at fault, and issue a citation. The process, even if everything goes right, could take 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile during that same time a dozen drug deals could be going down or half a dozen homes are being broken into all over the city.

The city is wondering if your accident was worth that call?

It's a worst-case scenario that could be explored as Memphis city administration and city council consider ideas to help the police department more efficiently use its duty-stretched manpower. After attending a groundbreaking ceremony for new housing community, Mayor Wharton picked up on a theme echoed by Police Director Toney Armstrong at a council budget committee hearing on Tuesday.

Dog calls, false alarms and minor traffic accidents could be reconsidered.

"The times that we spend on all of those are taking away our time from doing police related things," Director Armstrong said.

But, while a study sponsored by the administration makes some suggestions to improve police efficiency it doesn't get specific on how an "incident fee" could be implemented, how much or whether it would also apply to inclement weather conditions.

But, while on the subject of traffic, and Mayor Wharton was free wheeling all these ideas, here's another thought:

"Do we need to bring back the PST's (police service technicians)? That's a big question. We have folks tied up on that," the mayor said.

Remember those fine young guys and gals looking for law enforcement career opportunities by becoming police service technicians. For a number of years it seemed to work as some pst's took it all the way through to graduating from the police academy.

But, for some unexplained reason, former MPD Director Larry Godwin soured on the program. With his recommendation the council pulled the funding. As for the pesky roaming dog calls, usually other cities take care of that through animal control or private agencies, which leaves the more than 45,000-a-year false alarm responses.

"We are upping the cost for these false alarms," Mayor Wharton said. "But, if you look at the number of alarm calls, false alarm calls that MPD gets tied up on, those are hours that could be spent on real stuff."

Memphians took to FOX13's social media to save they don't like this idea, at all. There were nearly 300 responses posted on the myFOXMemphis Facebook page and the overwhelming response is that many don't want to pay more fees.

Some say this shouldn't even be an issue, and Memphis Police officers responding to major or minor accidents is part of the taxes residents pay for.

Below are some of the responses from Facebook:

Steven Lackey: "How about an 8% pay cut for all Memphis politicians. Start there and see if that helps!"

Phillip Emmert: "In most 'fender benders' someone is declared at fault, and giving a ticket. Can we argue that over the phone when we call in? ..... what they need to focus on is raising the standards and ethics of the existing officers."

Ginger Theoneuluvtohate: "Stop relieving these police officer of duty with pay and maybe just maybe we can free of some of the money or is the city that broke?"

Cecily Blocker Coleman: "What happened to serve and protect."

Crystal Gestring Stallings: "Is there a way to find out first how bad the wreck is before sending a cop out? Makes sense to find out up front rather than waste a cops time. If no one is injured, exchange info and carry on"

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FOX13 News reporter Bofta Yimam contributed to this report.

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