Clanton police earn computer grant

Published 8:46 pm Friday, July 10, 2009

A $35,000 grant will help put computers in five Clanton police cars.

State law will soon require police departments to submit all data via computers, rather than on paper, said Police Chief Brian Stilwell.

The grant, from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant program, will help outfit five patrol cars with mobile data computers.

The computers will allow officers to give tickets or file incident or arrest reports from the field. That information will go straight to state databases … completely paperless.

Currently, clerks enter all data from police officers and mail any needed information to Montgomery.

Stilwell said there are considerable upfront costs, but the computers will save money in the long run.

“We will definitely have a good return on our investment,” said Stilwell. “It will save us money and make our officers more efficient.”

By 2010, all tickets will have to be issued from patrol cars.

The deadline for accident reports is this October.

The police chief said Clanton is looking at grants to help offset the costs of buying computers for its 25 patrol cars.

Alabama provides help with smaller departments who can’t afford the equipment, and larger operations often fall under homeland security funding. But many medium-sized cities often fall in the middle where money gets tight, said Stilwell.

The police department has also applied for a rural development grant but hasn’t heard anything back on that application.

Stilwell said the city would have to pay for the computers if the other grants don’t come through.

“We’re hoping we will get the other grant though,” Stilwell said.

The Clanton City Council recently approved spending $39,000 to upgrade infrastructure, computers and software at police headquarters so everything would be compatible with how things must be filed for state records.