Police chief tells of grant eligibility

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FARMINGTON – The Farmington Police Department has been notified of its eligibility to receive a $12,538 Justice Assistance Grant, Police Chief Richard Caton told the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday.

Since the grant notification came only a week before the July 2 deadline to submit a proposal, one was prepared and sent before notifying the board or public, Caton said.

In the proposal, the department is seeking to upgrade its four cruiser laptops to Mobile Data Terminals. The grant would include cell phone fees for two years, with an expected cost of approximately $2,900 per year incurred by the department after that time.

The terminals will allow an officer to access more information from the cruiser when the vehicles are stopped, Caton said Wednesday. License, registration and in-house records will be available from the cruiser, as well as information that could provide more safety for the officer if there is an indication of past problems.

In the proposal narrative, prepared by Sgt. Shane Cote, the department made 8,202 traffic stops in 2006 that were all called in to the Franklin County Dispatch Center. One of two dispatchers then ran the registration plate and license check through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The Dispatch Center, he said, now functions for five law enforcement agencies, with the addition of Jay Police this June. The dispatches are done on one radio frequency, which is reaching its saturation point in terms of volume of traffic. That heavy volume, he said, has a direct and adverse effect, in turn, on officer safety.

Police agencies now also run daily registration and license checks from motor vehicle crashes, driving complaints, bail checks and multiple warrant checks through dispatch. The center also dispatches ambulances from four separate bases and for 17 fire departments.

The program would be a pilot project, Cote suggested, that if successful would encourage other agencies to share information through Mobile Data Terminals. A goal would be to reduce the number of calls to dispatch and give officers on the street access to the department’s databases and the state’s system, he said.

Caton said selectmen chose to move forward with the grant. The department now has to wait to hear from grant personnel to see if the proposal meets their criteria.

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