PD submits $2.1M operational budget

Area lawbreakers who have a tendency to get unruly could be in for a shock next year -- one that carries about 50,000 volts.

The Craig City Council has preliminarily approved a request from the police department to purchase four tasers in 2004. The weapons, Police Chief Walt Vanatta said, are non-lethal, but debilitating and give officers a chance to apprehend a suspect without inflicting permanent damage.

The four tasers come with a $5,000 price tag and are part of the Craig Police Department's 2004 capital budget. The council is slated to approve the city's 2004 budget at is meeting tonight, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in council chambers of Craig City Hall.

Vanatta said taser technology gives officers a tool for use in multiple situations. The tasers can stun a person from 21 feet away, keeping officers at a safe distance and giving them a few seconds to get a suspect under control.

The weapons have been used in hostage situations, to control violent people who were under the influence of drugs and alcohol and in situations where a suspect is armed. The 50,000-volt shock renders a person temporarily incapacitated and eliminates situations where officers may have to shoot a suspect to protect themselves or others.

"Officers would be trained in the use of the taser and it would be used to defuse highly volatile situations," Vanatta said. "Tasers reduce the risk of injury to the subject and the officer."

No permanent or lasting damage is inflicted with the use of a taser.

The new weapons are part of the police department's $146,000 capital budget. Other requested purchases include two hand-held radar guns ($2,000 each), a display table to present educational materials during community activities ($1,500), night vision equipment ($3,000) and various software to assist officers in crime scene composite drawing, crime scene analysis and traffic accident diagramming ($7,250).

Other budgeted purchases include the yearly replacement of vehicles, uniforms, ballistic vests, radios and computers.

The police department implemented a take-home vehicle program two years ago. This year, Vanatta will evaluate whether the program has earned the department the anticipated cost savings.

The police department's capital budget for 2004 is $36,700 less than in 2003 while its operations and maintenance budget shows a 2.46 percent increase over 2003.

The department will get through 2004 with the same number of officers and support personnel it had last year, though Vanatta is seeking a grant to pay for another school resource officer. The department's budgeted expenditures for personnel, including salaries and benefits, is $1,776,990, a large portion of the $2,150,260 operating budget.

A portion of the increase in ongoing costs is the purchase of tactical lights for long guns for SERT teams, which will help officers in low-light situations.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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