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FPD first discussed abolishing free funeral escorts in 2010

The Franklin Police Department first considered abolishing free escorts for funeral processions more than two years ago, according to an email from the city administrator to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen dated Aug. 6, 2010.

“Chief [Jackie] Moore and Assistant [David] Chief Rahinsky have recommended that the City of Franklin cease the practice of providing escorts for funerals,” Eric Stuckey, city administrator wrote to members of the city's legislative body. “We are considering this change for the same reasons many other cities across the country have discontinued this practice due to liability issues, officer safety concerns, etc. The responsibility would then fall on private providers. I believe this change in practice is appropriate given these factors but would welcome Board feedback regarding this change.”

Rahinsky, who has since been named police chief, likened charging funeral homes for escort service to the FPD policy of charging churches for traffic assistance. The fee is $35 per hour, he said. The off-duty officer receives $30, while the remaining $5 goes to the FPD's general fund.

“A portion of the money is paid to the city to offset the gas and wear and tear on the vehicles,” Rahinsky said.

While the discussion to change the policy began more than two years ago, he said he first engaged the funeral home directors last year. According to Rahinsky, the conversations were ongoing to allow the service providers an adjustment period. Rahinsky sent an email to Pam Stephens, owner of Williamson Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home, on Dec. 3, that indicated the policy had gone into full effect.

“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. 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. I would be happy to meet and discuss this issue with you should you desire.”

Like most operational policies for the FPD, whether to charge for funeral escorts ostensibly falls under Rahinsky's purview. However, at Tuesday night's BOMA work session, At-large Alderman Brandy Blanton expressed concern that there was no public hearing on the matter – a practice common to many government offices when policies directly impact the public.

“We have not been given an opportunity for public input,” she said at Tuesday's BOMA work session. “I disagree with that, and feel like we need to look at this further.”

At-large Alderman Clyde Barnhill said he disagreed with the policy, yet he indicated that this is a matter beyond what BOMA should involve itself in.

“[BOMA] has managed to get out of the micromanaging business,” he said. “And this I consider this to be a departmental decision.”

Representatives from Franklin's four funeral homes are scheduled to meet Friday with Mayor Dr. Ken Moore, Rahinsky, and Stuckey to discuss the policy.

“You have a meeting Friday,” Barnhill said to Rahinsky at Tuesday's meeting. “And that should be it.”

Posted on: 12/12/2012


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