More tools for Olathe police

(OLATHE, Kan.) -- Olathe police officers will be armed with more weapons and more investigative equipment, thanks to a federal grant.

This week, the City Council approved a spending plan for the $66,153 grant plus $7,350 in local matching funds. The $73,503 plan includes:

- $30,560.25 for 21 rifles for the Tactical Support Unit, Olathe's SWAT team. The rifles would fire bullets that can penetrate body armor. The bullets are designed to enter a human body but not leave, thereby helping to protect bystanders from getting hit by bullets fired at suspects.

- $9,668.75 for a polygraph machine

- $8,245 for a camera inside a clock radio, used for hotel-room stings, and a camera that could be concealed in a blue-jean jacket

- $4,600 for computer equipment

- $4,000 for five digital cameras

- $4,000 for two small ballistic shields that officers can use to protect themselves if a suspect is armed

- $2,500 for a software program that tracks the strengths and weaknesses of a recruit, a trainer and a training program

- $2,500 for storage lockers for firearms

- $2,100 for a vacuum-pressure fuming chamber, which would allow officers to better develop fingerprints.

- $1,700 for a camcorder and a carrying case with other investigative equipment

- $1,695 for a tent-like device that helps protect a vehicle accident or crime scene during bad weather

- $1,334 for five face shields

- $600 for a photo scanner.

Olathe won't receive the grant until the federal government approves its budget. The money will come from the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program, which helps police departments purchase equipment to fight crime more efficiently.

Lt. Joe Pruett said the Olathe department has received the grant each year since the program started in 1996, but the amount has been steadily decreasing.

Each year's grant, he explained, is based on the city's population and its crime rate. The program has been using 1990 census figures. As far as the federal government's concerned, Olathe's population has remained stable while the city's crime rate has gone down.

"If this program continues next year, we might see an increase in the money because the 2000 census figures will be in," Pruett said.

Olathe received $70,906 in 1996, he said.

In all, 29 Kansas cities and counties are slated to receive money from the program during this round of funding, including five Johnson County cities. Only Topeka, Wichita and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., received more than Olathe.

Councilman Jim Randall said it's good that the Police Department can get such grants to help officers fight crime. "There just isn't enough money in our budget to update some of the tools that are needed to go up against some of today's criminals," Randall said.

"The criminals know who has the up-to-date equipment and who doesn't. It's a deterrent to one extent." Pruett said he's pleased with the grant and said the equipment can be shared among cities during crises. "If Topeka has a problem, they've never hesitated to call us," he said. "If there was a problem in Edgerton, the sheriff's office would call us for help.

It's a community approach to law enforcement."

(iSyndicate; The Kansas City Star; Nov. 11, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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