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Gear for police car computers approved

Paragould Police IT Capt. Brent McCain explains the equipment to be purchased and installed to help equip all 30 remaining police vehicles with computers at Monday's meeting of the Paragould City Council.

Gary Exelby / Daily Press

BY GARY EXELBY gexelby@paragoulddailypress.com

Paragould's police officers will soon have computers in all their vehicles.

The Paragould City Council has adopted an ordinance permitting the police department to use a local vendor to install gear and connect the computers and associated devices, waiving the requirement for competitive bidding.

The ordinance allows the city to spend a total $48,723.02 to buy and install computer mounts and docking stations for 30 patrol vehicles. The provider, Paragould Communications, has a longstanding work relationship with the city, and, as noted in the ordinance, using the local business is expected to save a great deal of time, since the closest other providers of the required service are in Little Rock and Memphis. According to Information Technology (IT) Capt. Brent McCain of the department, the city is to receive 90 percent reimbursement of the spending through a $124,000 grant from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NTHSA) administered through Arkansas State Police.

The balance of the grant, McCain told the council, is to be used for purchase and installation of the 30 computers, plus their associated scanners, card readers, printers, printer mounts and other peripheral equipment.

"And we may not need all of it for that," he said, "but it's there in case we do."

McCain told the council four of the department's vehicles are already equipped with the gear.

"They work great," he said. "They reduce the time for a traffic stop to about four minutes."

He explained the officer conducting the traffic stop or other interaction with an individual can get the person's driver's license or identification card, and use the card reader to scan the information and insert the data into the appropriate fields for the ticket or report.

"It pre-populates the fields," McCain said, "so the only thing the officer has to put in is a narrative, and the violations. It not only prints out the ticket for the driver but sends it directly to the courts and to the state."

Paper to print the tickets, McCain added, is much cheaper than the ticket books currently used, as well. And the card reader will in most cases eliminate any need for the officer to make radio calls to dispatchers, thus freeing them up for emergencies and other situations.

The council approved the measure with an emergency clause, meaning it takes effect upon passage, instead of the normal 30 days after enactment.

"The grant became available on July 1 and it closes at the end of this month," McCain said, "so we don't have much time."