Franklin PD to stop providing free traffic service for funeral processions
By Skip Anderson, For the Williamson Herald
The Franklin Police Department recently halted the longstanding tradition of providing escorts at no charge for funeral processions.
“The thought is, that if we're expecting not-for-profit entities such as churches to pay for officers to provide traffic duty, it only seems fair that for-profit businesses pay as well,” said Lt. Charles Warner, public information officer with the Franklin Police Department. “I would say that the majority of taxpayers and non-profit entities would agree. All we're trying to do is bring things in line with expectations with everything else.”
Warner said a decline in the number of officers on the FPD over the past five years combined with an increase in the number of residents within city limits makes continuing the practice of unremunerated funeral escorts impractical.
“We have fewer police officers on the street than we did five years ago,” Warner told the Williamson Herald. “We're doing more with less.”
The fee for each off-duty officer hired for a funeral procession is $35 per hour, according to Franklin Police Chief David Rahinksy.
Williamson Memorial Funeral Home and Gardens owner Pam Stephens said she received a letter from Rahinsky dated Dec. 3, solidifying the change in policy the two had discussed over the course of the past 12 months.
“The population growth and increase in traffic has made it challenging to keep up with daily, multiple funeral escort requests utilizing on-duty police officers,” Rahinsky wrote. “The Department continues to offer our support of Franklin funeral homes by offering scheduled escorts by off-duty police officers. That system compensates the officer as well as the city, with no burden to taxpayers for additional police services provided to for-profit business. It allows on-duty officers to patrol neighborhoods, combat crime, and respond to emergencies.”
In 2007, 124 police officers were on the Franklin police force and as of Dec. 4 there were 122 officers on staff. However, the city is in the process of hiring additional police officers to meet the per capita staffing requirements, according to City Administrator Eric Stuckey.
Warner said the no-free-escorts policy would extend to funeral processions for dignitaries as well. In such cases, he said, off-duty officers may be allowed to volunteer their time to provide the service.
"I don't want there to be the perception that Franklin doesn't allow funeral processions anymore," said Eric Stuckey, city administrator. "We are absolutely there to serve the community. It's just going to be done a fee-based service.”
Stephens said her funeral home in Franklin, located near the intersection of Mack Hatcher Parkway and Columbia Avenue, has opted to provide its clients directions to the cemetery rather than try to organize a procession without assistance from the city.
“We tried that process, but it's not working,” she said. “Out-of-town guests don't know where they're going. We have tried to do alternate things to accommodate the families. But we're going to have to try something else.”
She said she may simply have to start hiring off-duty officers.
“If we need to pay, then we need to pay,” Stephens said. “But this is death, and it is about respect. Chief Rahinsky and I have agreed to disagree on the subject matter.”
However, in some cases, free escort services for funerals may still available. Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long said his office provides escort service at no charge for processions that terminate outside of Franklin city limits.
“We will do funeral escorts if they're in the county as long as we have the manpower on the shift,” he said.
Posted on: 12/4/2012