Homeland Security grant provides new equipment for Mercer officers

December 01, 2004|ANN R. HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - Law enforcement officers across Mercer County will have up-to-date communications equipment in their cruisers due to a grant from the state Department for Homeland Security.

The $409,762 will go toward purchasing mobile data terminals for the cruisers of Harrodsburg and Burgin police departments and Mercer County Sheriff's Department.

The terminals will allow officers to communicate with central dispatch without involving a dispatcher.

Harrodsburg Police Chief Ernie Kelty and Assistant Chief Rodney Harlow said the terminals are estimated to cost about $394,762. The remaining $15,000 will go toward updating the current 911 system and the controller, combining three phone systems into one.

Kelty, Harlow and City Commissioner Jack Springate, the elected official who oversees city police here, estimate there are about 30 cruisers that will require the terminals.


Grant money also will go toward equipment to boost the signal from the cruisers to central dispatch.

From those terminals, officers can run a check through the National Crime Information Center for any outstanding warrants, check driver's licenses and license plates, and issue citations.

The new Kentucky driver's licenses allow officers to scan the cards into the computer for information about the driver of the vehicle police have stopped. Kelty said only information about current charges will be available to the officer.

Currently, all of the information available to officers must come through the dispatchers.

"It will give dispatchers more time to perform other duties," Kelty said. And they have other duties.

Judge orders HPD to record all warrents in computer

Recently Mercer Circuit Judge Darren Peckler ordered Harrodsburg Police Department to record in its computer system all warrants issued in the county so as not to duplicate warrants issued here to other counties.

That not only requires entering the data in the computer system, but also involves repeated trips to and from the courthouse to pick up complaints and return them there after they have been entered into the police department's computer system.

The decision to fund the terminals came after a pilot project spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

That project was so successful that it was determined that the money available to Kentucky's Department of Homeland Security would go toward funding the terminals in all of the state's police cars. Kentucky State Police officers already have the system in their cruisers.

Since the terminals allow officers to do accident reports, crime reports and citations while at the same time parking their vehicles in a high crime area, officers have more freedom to remain outside the police station and at the same time be more visible to residents.

Officers will be trained next month in Louisville on the use of the equipment, Kelty said. The chief credits Harlow with keeping Harrodsburg Police Department current on the latest technology.

"Rodney is such an asset to the police department as we are trying to remain up-to-date with the technology that is coming out," the chief said. "With the city on a limited budget, and with Rodney's knowledge of computers, we can get equipment installed."

Harlow said he is not sure when the equipment will be available for use. He has tried to check prices with the state, and although the grants have been announced, the state is not quite ready to make the terminals and accompanying equipment available for installation and use.

The grants are part of the federal government's response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. This is not the first time the police department has received money from Homeland Security. Funds have been received for respirators for officers.

"We are the first responders (to any emergency,)" Kelty said. "Law enforcement duties haven't changed since 9-11; we just have more responsibilities."

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