Updated: July 1, 2009 at 12:00 am
A recently announced Justice Department grant will have a dramatic impact on officer safety and efficiency in the Pikes Peak region, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said this week.
"The benefit it's delivering to us on the equipment front is huge," Maketa said. "We have equipment that is failing, especially on the IT aspect. It couldn't come at a better time."
Colorado Springs police will get about $1.3 million, while the Sheriff's Office will receive about $620,000 - the first money received by local law enforcement from the Obama administration's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 passed earlier this year.
Maketa said he'll buy 21 mobile data computers to mount in deputies' vehicles to link deputies to the dispatch system. Some will go into supervisors' vehicles so that all patrols have the same technology, he said.
Mobile units will allow dispatch to track locations of patrols and dispatch more efficiently, improving response times.
The Sheriff's Office also will purchase an online reporting system, so people can report minor crimes electronically if they wish, although deputies still will respond to minor crimes if asked, Maketa said.
He'll also buy fixed mounted radar equipment to replace the hand-held models in 34 patrol units. "Every patrol unit will have one," he said.
Other equipment includes replacement of Tasers, ballistic shields officers will use in evacuations, safety vests, ammunition, site systems on long rifles and a system to monitor visitors at the jail.
"This is monumental in scope of equipment," he said, noting that many of the items were included in his 2009 budget request but weren't funded due to the county's sinking revenues triggered by the recession.
Stimulus money aims at boosting the economy by creating jobs. While Maketa won't hire anyone with the Justice Department money, it will stimulate the law enforcement supply industry as departments nationwide buy goods, he said. Several of Maketa's purchases likely will be made through local vendors, he said.
Colorado Springs police will use the money to hire five people for a limited period, though police intend to pursue other sources of funding to keep the positions staffed.
They include four community service officers, whose primary job will be to investigate crimes that aren't in progress and those without any suspect information, such as burglaries and vandalism. That will free up patrol officers for more pressing work, said police spokesman Lt. David Whitlock.
Police will extend a contract for a grant writer for another three years, and the department will hire a part-time office administrator to track the recovery grant programs.
Nearly half of the police allotment - $760,000 - will go toward a $2 million records management system police hope to have operating within two years.
The money will be transferred to the city and county on Wednesday, Maketa said.
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Gazette reporter Lance Benzel contributed to this report