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10/12/2019

Sheriff Requesting 12 Vehicles in 2020 Budget

 

The Mississippi County Sheriff's Department is asking to purchase six cars and six trucks next year to replace its aging vehicles, as well as five dash cameras for patrol cars.

During Thursday afternoon's Mississippi County Quorum Court Police, Fire and Safety Committee meeting, Sheriff Dale Cook pointed out the department has 27 vehicles with 101,000-208,000 miles; 17 have more than 200,000.

The cost for the 12 vehicles would be around $350,000. Using the state bid figures, each truck is $29,842 equipped, while cars are $28,011 equipped apiece.

Committee chairman Justice Rick Ash, who was once a captain at the Blytheville Police Department, said driving high mileage vehicles on a high-speed chase is dangerous.

"A police car has about twice as much wear and tear on it as a (typical) car," Cook said.

Many departments swap out vehicles at 100,000-135,000 miles, which usually happens in three to five years, according to Cook.

Ash said Missouri has a policy that once a car reaches 50,000 miles agencies replace the vehicle and sell it to other departments, putting the funds back into a new car budget.

The bulk of the 12 vehicles would go into patrol.

Cook noted when the department added courthouse security and transport officer slots, "it put me in a bind" with vehicles.

"We are going to ask for 12 vehicles this time, and hopefully after that eight a year," the sheriff said. "The way we figured it out, we can sustain our fleet on eight vehicles a year."

He pointed out that trucks perform better on gravel, which is why he has incorporated them into the fleet.

Cook said when he took office nine years ago, the department had a large number of high mileage cars because the MCSD had been buying used vehicles.

In 2011, the county purchased 12 vehicles for the department, then several more a couple of years later, Cook noted.

The sheriff is also requesting five new dash cams for patrol, with an estimated cost of $30,000.

He eventually wants all patrol units equipped with cameras. Currently, the department has nine working cameras.

"I'm not pushing body cams," Cook said, responding to a question about using body cams instead of in-car cameras. "I want cameras in the cars to start with so they can film everything out there. It's just better."

In other news, the board discussed a new law that allows sheriff departments to utilize a collection agency to collect old fines.

Ash noted collection agencies would collect entire fine, send that money to the county, and the county would write a check to the agency for its percentage.

Collection agencies would have to post a $50,000 bond with the state to participate, Ash said.

Cook added utilizing a collection agency would require action from the quorum court.

The sheriff said his department is researching how many law enforcement agencies are taking advantage of the new law.

"If we can do it, I'm for it," Cook said, noting the county has nothing to lose.

Justice of the Peace Molly Houseworth-Jackson said justices can define what old fines would be collected.

Cook said the fines go back as far as 20 years.

He added MCSD will get some funds from debtors' Arkansas income tax refunds.

Meanwhile, Emergency Management coordinator Wayne Reynolds is updating the safety plan for the county because its injury rates and loss time "are a little high" and those figures are affecting the county's insurance plan. The safety plan is a living document, he said.