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City Council approves $235,000 for new St. Pete Police toys

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council approved $235,000 for new equipment, technology and training and recruitment during a meeting Thursday.

The bulk of the money will pay for dash cams in police cars. The St. Petersburg Police Department will purchase 15 in-vehicle camera systems for use in its Street Crimes Unit. Those vehicles are not currently equipped for video.

The cameras will turn on automatically when the vehicle’s lights are activated. Officers can also turn the cameras on manually from the vehicle or from a remote on their belt.

“All of our street crimes officers we’re seeking additional funding to eventually outfit all of our officers,” said Assistant Police Chief Melanie Bevan.

This expense passed with relatively little discussion. However, one council member, Wengay Newton, was absent. He has previously brought up the possibility of equipping officers with body cameras.

That debate has taken on a national spotlight after a series of shootings involving unarmed black males and police officers who say they were threatened. The idea is to provide accountability in situations where police may have used unnecessary force and protection for officers who were justified in using force.

Dash cams provide some of those benefits, but have a limited scope of viewing because they’re on the vehicle, not the officer.

City council member Karl Nurse cautioned moving forward with purchasing more in-vehicle cameras until the agency knows more about the program’s success.

“I would be more comfortable that we buy these 15 … before we spend $3 or 4 million to buy them across the board,” Nurse said.

St. Pete Police will also spend $50,000 on four new Segways. The new vehicles will replace the five old ones the agency currently uses.

The new Segways are built specifically for law enforcement. They have lights and sirens, a broader footprint to make them easier to ride and reflective taping similar to what’s on the police cruisers.

“[It’s] not [an] in your face way of being out there among the people,” said Sergeant Mike Bush. “[It’s a] great way to patrol the trail, the mall anywhere pedestrians are your main issue that you’re dealing with.”

According to Bush, to repair the five older Segways the agency currently owns would cost about $7,000.

Also on the list of new buys for the agency is $35,000 worth of updated Microsoft SharePoint software. That’s used to create a website where officers can store, organize, share and access important departmental information through a secure server on any device

It will also hold all BOLOs (be on the look out), general procedures and standard operating procedures as well as training videos. Officers can also access the information from their in-vehicle computers.

The agency will also spend $15,000 for five Panasonic Toughpad G1 tablet-style devices for the road patrol unit for issuing citations. The technology will allow officers to issue citations electronically so they can be processed on a daily basis. Officers currently use paper citations that require someone to input the information manually later.

Another $40,000 will be used for training and recruiting.

City Council also approved another $2,500 for the Treasury Forfeiture fund to be used for department representation for Police Week at the National Law Enforcement Officers memorial in Washington DC.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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