Cost a sticking point for cruiser computers

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ruark wants it to happen one way or other, Davis not sure spending is worth it

Both candidates for Barry County sheriff are in favor of putting computers in the deputies' police cruisers, but one has keyed in on the idea more than the other.

Barry County Deputy Justin "Dave" Ruark, D-Cassville, said his plan to put computers in the vehicles is a key part of his platform.

"I want to make it happen one way or another, because there are so many benefits, and the only drawback is funding," he said.

Davis

Former FBI Agent Gary Davis, R-Cassville, said he thinks it's a great idea, but funding could spell doom for such a plan.

"The only question is, how are we going to pay for it?" he said. "You not only have to have the computer, but also the antenna, docking station, computer stand, shut down timer and more."

Ruark has boasted the plan as a way to circumvent substations in the county, as they would allow deputies to do reports from the field and access information at the tip of a finger.

"They would be able to look up information from previous reports while out on a call, and anyone on the road should be able to have those functions," he said. "The [Missouri State] Highway Patrol and others have gone to a paperless system for tickets, where instead of buying ticket books, they print them from the cars, and they say it's better and easier."

Davis said one new computer alone could run as much as $3,500, and used ones may go for about $1,500. But along with the initial start-up costs, he said, come maintenance costs that can be pricey.

"You've got to have a means of communication, like Verizon or MyFi, and a Verizon hookup fee can be $600 or $700 per car, plus another $40 per month service fee," he said. "Other costs not included are infrastructure, networking and software. I've talked to someone at another sheriff's department that said it would cost about $10,000 per year just for upkeep for 21 cars. I'm 100 percent for the idea. We just have to figure out how to do it without the 
fiscal constraints."

The Barry County Sheriff's Office has 21 patrol cars, plus the sheriff's vehicle.

Ruark

Ruark said there is money available to lessen the initial blow financially.

"There are grants for technology, as well as the Department of Defense having a lot of surplus stuff they donate to sheriff's offices and police departments," Ruark said. "I have not looked into the initial costs, but I have talked to a couple police chiefs who say by going paperless, even though there's the cost of equipment and software, the office saves money long-term on paper and buying ticket books. It can pay for itself, then result in savings."

Davis said a good device would have at least five years of life, maybe two or three more if given excellent care. He said there is grant money available for the computers, but most grants would probably not fund upkeep and maintenance.

"It would be great to have, and I may sound like a broken record, but I don't think we have the money," he said. "Would I rather put $5,000 worth of computers in every car or give the deputies a $2,000 to $3,000 per year raise and use the excess money for other needs? I think I'd opt to give that money to the deputies."

Ruark and Davis square off in the general election on Nov. 8. The pair will also appear in a debate on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Cassville Event Center.

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