A Clearwater police officer will soon be facing thousands of dollars in fines if she does not comply with her homeowner's association with its demand to move her police car into a garage.
Cross Pointe homeowner's association is currently managed by Holiday Isles Management, which sent a letter to the officer who has not been identified advising her that she is currently breaking the homeowner's agreement and needs to move what they call a commercial vehicle or pay the penalty for ignoring the rules.
According to Florida State Statute 403.413:
"(b) “Commercial purpose” means for the purpose of economic gain.
(c) “Commercial vehicle” means a vehicle that is owned or used by a business, corporation, association, partnership, or sole proprietorship or any other entity conducting business for a commercial purpose."
On June 16, 2005, then-Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist issued an opinion that law enforcement vehicles are not considered commercial vehicles.
With that said, the "analysis can be altered by the language in a particular community association’s Declaration," meaning homeowner associations can write their own rules when it comes to government vehicles, according to The Condo and HOA Law Bulletin.
The letter sent to the officer from the homeowner association refers her to look at the association's declaration which will point out that she is currently violating HOA rules. The letter was not publicized by ABC Actions News who reported on the story.
Dan Parri, a family friend of the officer who is speaking on her behalf, believes officers take home their vehicle to help improve response time as well as having a visible police car will help deter crime.
According to ABC Action News:
“Every place that I’ve ever lived, if I had a police cruiser parked next to me I felt safer,” he said.
Parri continues to argue they do not use the vehicle for profit, which the homeowners agrees with but states that it is issued by a government agency and therefore violates the rules.
"Maybe there are bad rules sometimes,” said Parri. “You don’t enforce those rules, you change those rules!”
Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter released a statement defending the officer and her choice of keeping the vehicle visible.
"The actions of this association to changing the rules is disappointing to say the least. If you are going to change the rules on them, it seems logical to provide a grandfather clause that the association will honor. Not a grandfather clause they changed their mind on honoring ... The community has demanded officers be dedicated community servants and respond, day or night, to emergencies. This officer and her spouse have served her community admirably. When Irma hit our community, they put their kids on a plane to relatives because they both had to work during the storm recovery.”
Both Slaughter and Parri say they plan on trying to change the law to the point where HOA’s cannot go after first responders vehicles in residential driveways.