March 12th, 2003

AG Ruling: No Ads on Police Vehicles; Hinds Had Hoped to Lease 10 Patrol Cars

By Andy Kanengheiser
Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS)

Hinds County Sheriff’s Department patrol cars won’t become traveling billboards,
advertising businesses and sporting sponsor logos.

State law "does not authorize a county to use an essential governmental
function such as law enforcement as a device to advertise private businesses,"
a ruling Tuesday from Attorney General Mike Moore said.

The county had been exploring a deal with North Carolina-based Government Acquisitions
Inc. to lease 10 patrol cars adorned with local, regional and national advertising.

The cost to the county would have been $1 per car on the three-year lease.

Hinds County Board of Supervisors President Douglas Anderson said the deal
could have been worth about $200,000 to the county.

"We’ve got quite a few old vehicles that are ten years old. Quite a few
have over 150,000 miles," Anderson said. "We’ll manage. The world
doesn’t end with this one."

Sheriff Malcolm McMillin agreed. "It would have been great, but if we
are not able to, we certainly will abide by it," he said.

Anderson had asked for the attorney general’s opinion in the matter.

"We will accept their position," Anderson said. "It’s not one
of those deals we will cry over."

The opinion suggested that Hinds County officials could seek legislation to
make the practice legal.

But with the 2003 session to conclude in a few weeks, Anderson said he doubts
the Legislature would suspend its rules to take up the issue now.

Anderson said there would have been strict limits on advertising. There would
be no ads for tobacco, beer or nightclubs, among other things.

"We were not going to advertise strip joints," Anderson said.

McMillin said if the getting new patrol cars meant slapping on a sign, "’Eat
at Joe’s,’ I would have taken it."

Citizen reaction to the idea was mixed, but "most were in favor of getting
a car for free," he said.

Hinds County supervisors are scheduled discuss the opinion at their regular
meeting Monday.

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