Funding item for cops turns into heated debate
The State of California is trying to give the Truckee Police Department a $100,000 grant and police chief Dan Boon has found a way to spend it on new equipment. The equipment, he says, will help the department do a better, more efficient job. So why did the seemingly standard town council item cause controversy?
In the public comment section of the meeting, Truckee-resident Sandy Casey said Truckee Police officers are overbearing and going beyond their duties when it comes to Truckee teenagers. She went so far as to call it “youth profiling.”
“I have now personally witnessed, and have been made aware of by other parents, unbelievable, indiscriminate investigation of our kids,” Casey said.
She said this “youth profiling,” along with “falsified police reports” and “Backlogged courts having to deal with ridiculous charges” have had a serious effect on the Truckee youth, as well as the rest of the community.
“I know the police department and I know the schools are doing what they consider is the best job,” Casey said, “but I think when we get to the point of our civil liberties and what we are really teaching our kids, we’ve got to examine our priorities.”
While no action was taken during the public comment part of the meeting, the issue arose again during the hearing for the police department grant. During this section, council member Beth Ingalls got in on the discussion.
“I do share some of the concerns that Mrs. Casey brought forward today and a lot of actual concerns that our community has right now in terms of what the police presence is doing to the character of our town,” Ingalls said at the meeting.
“There’s a huge problem at the high school right now, in terms of police presence, and officers hiding in the bushes, using radar guns,” she added.
Truckee Mayor Ted Owens did point out that there were two different issues being discussed: one was using a grant that was already allocated, and the other was policing methodology. However, Casey returned to speak and brought the two issues together.
Casey asked if the money could be used for some other purpose than the proposed local area network computer station, an evidence bar coding system, a hardware card for the dispatch center, a laser diagram system for crime and accident scene reconstruction, mobile access terminal equipment and a FIST suit, which would aid in weaponless defense and baton training.
“Could we use it, for example, in educating officers as to teenagers? Could we use it for some other ongoing programs that you might have that might be reasonable?” Casey questioned Boon.
Boon responded that there is a training budget for the police department and the reason for the equipment the department chose is “because they are such high-cost items.” (The mobile access terminal equipment alone will cost approximately $77,000, according to the police department.)
One stipulation of the grant, he said, is that it is supposed to be used “to enhance first-line emergency response.”
He added that the department usually uses the grant (which has been awarded for the past few years) on one-time expenditures, because the grant is not guaranteed from year-to-year. This way, he said, if the department does not receive the grant in the future, it will not have to cut any programs.
Casey maintained that there is an underlying sentiment in the town that the community feels the police are not working with the community.
“What I think a good majority of this town feels and what they perceive is not a police department that is working with people, with the town. It’s like you’re big city cops and that we supposedly have big city interests,” Casey said.
In the midst of it all, council member Josh Susman came up with something all seemed to agree on: create a forum or workshop to “check the pulse” of the police department. He mentioned he had no problem with the police department, but mentioned, “If there’s a perception that there is something going on with the methodology or the fundamental activity that’s going on in the PD by this community I think it’s important that we respond to that.”
In response to Casey’s comments after the hearing, Boon said “I cannot comment on that.”
The expenditures for the grant were then voted on and passed by the town council, 4-0, with one abstention from Ingalls. From here, Owens will set up the workshop with the police department at another time, to be determined.
The grant is from the state’s Citizens Option for Public Safety and is automatically granted to the police department. In order to use the money, however, the department must spend the money “to supplement existing police services” and the use has to be heard at a town council public hearing.
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