Sheriff's Departments Try to Fund New Technology
JEFFERSON CITY - Technology can be glitzy and glamorous, but it also requires a pretty penny. Seven sheriff's departments - including Boone County, Cole County and Callaway County - were approved for a grant in 2009 to help fund new technology for the departments. But now the money from the grant has dried up and someone has to foot the bill.
The Cole County Sheriff's Department used some of the money to purchase mobile data terminals (MDT) for each vehicle in the department. The MDTs helps deputies on the road. Each kit includes a Panasonic Toughbook computer with an aircard - like a SIM card in a cell phone. With the MDTs, deputies can look up information like warrants and arrests and check the map to see where other deputies are stationed throughout the county.
"It gives some of the officers the ability to research things on their own - license plates, individuals they are looking for. They also have a better time watching out for where other officers are, what calls they might be on that they can be available for," said Jodi Snyder, communications operator at Cole County's communications center.
"This county is 398 square miles. And I have a person on the other side of the county that's taking the report to come back here to the office to write it, that's not a good thing. So this technology becomes a force multiplier. And it allows our people to remain out there and do report writing that they'd normally be doing off the streets," said Cole County Sheriff Greg White.
But now the money that helped provide this technology is gone. The MDTs' aircards cost $50 a month. White said he couldn't squeeze any additional money from a tightly-stretched budget to continue paying for the MDTs and the department's MDTs went offline from mid-November to the beginning of March.
Callaway County had to set aside additional money in the county's budget. This contributed to the jump in money allotted to the sheriff's department's telephone budget. It increased by $8,000 from 2011 to 2012.
Sergeant Robert Bruchsaler with the Cole County Sheriff's Department described losing the technology as "going back in time." He said during the three months that the MDTs went offline, deputies "felt blind" on the road.
"If you had called 911, you lived in this county, normally our guys would get to see every time you responded there. 'What's the situation been?' Are you one of the people that calls because your cat's having a bad day? Or have there been assaults on law enforcement there before? So they felt like they were going into calls blind in comparison to what they normally had available," said Bruchsaler.
Sheriff White said there are plans underway to help fund this technology into the future. He said there is a bill before the legislature that would allow departments to accumulate money to cover the costs of the technology. He said that way, the technology won't be an additional burden for county government budgets and probably the only options that will work for his department.