Give Us Gear, Not Bodies E-mail
Written by APB Staff   
For a lot of police departments which receive federal stimulus funds, the question of what to do with the money comes down to two options - personnel or equipment.

According to a recent article in the Tulsa World newspaper, the city of Tulsa elected to rehire police officers with its $3.5 million stimulus grant.

But dozens of law enforcement departments and other law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma used similar funding to upgrade weapons and equipment, federal stimulus data show.

Across the state of Oklahoma, cities and counties spent nearly $7.7 million of their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds on a wide variety of equipment, from patrol vehicles to digital video systems to high-powered guns.

For the agencies that opted for gear over bodies, the decision was at least in part based on concerns about being able to pay new hires when the federal money runs out.

Agencies that bought equipment also said the federal funds provided an opportunity to upgrade existing gear and purchase new equipment that they would not have been able to afford on their own.

Bartlesville, OK Police Chief Tom Holland said his department spent some $44,000 on new AR-15 rifles, magazines and ammunition. Some of the weapons were given to officers and the rest are being used for training.

Prior to the injection of cash from the stimulus, most Bartlesville officers had to use their own rifles if they wanted to carry one while on duty, Holland said. "Buying rifles kind of gives a negative connotation, but for us, it could save lives," Holland told the Tulsa World's Gavin Off.

In Stillwater, OK purchasing officers decided to spend $70,000 on 55 Tasers, each equipped with small video and audio recording systems. Stillwater police had no Tasers before receiving the stimulus funds.

According to federal stimulus data, the cities of Shawnee, Ponca City and Cushing also bought Tasers with a portion of their stimulus funds. And it wasn't just weapons that agencies used the stimulus money to buy.

Cushing, OK police bought mobile breath alcohol testing equipment and a lab fuming cabinet to detect fingerprints, according to Chief Terry Brannon.

"Imagine being in rural Oklahoma and you need an item processed for latent fingerprints and you don't have the necessary tools," Brannon told the World.

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