Picayune Police asks for help during budget workshop
The City of Picayune is conducting workshops this week with their departments as they prepare their budget for the upcoming 2020 fiscal year. On Wednesday, the Picayune Police Department presented their budget request narrative to four members of the council, City Manager Jim Luke, City Clerk Amber Hinton, and Chief Deputy City Clerk Teri Feeley.
Lieutenant Brandon Penton provided an overview of the current situation with the Tasers being used by the Picayune Police Department (PPD).
“Most of the tasers we are using on patrol right now are running at around twelve years old, and with that, we are running into some problems with them operating and functioning correctly, “ Penton stated.
Penton said of the twenty tasers the city has currently, only four are considered reliable. He said when an officer is in a situation when they have to decide quickly as to whether to use a taser or not, the unreliability of the older tasers puts officers in a dangerous situation not knowing if the taser will fire correctly or not. Penton gave examples of when the officers have tried to used a taser and when it was the proper time to deploy, nothing happen after pulling the trigger numerous times.
Penton provided a quote detailing the cost of a five-year lease purchase for twenty new tasers from Axon that would include unlimited cartridges for the tasers, training on the use of the tasers, holsters for the tasers, and a full warranty on the tasers. Year one would cost $8,420 and years two through five would cost the city $8,220. PPD spends between $1,500 to $2,000 per year on cartridges according to Penton.
Penton said that in comparison, PPD would have to spend approximately $2,700 per taser if they had to buy a taser and supplies individually.
Assistant Police Chief Dustin Moeller presented a request to the council for the addition of six additional officers for PPD which would include the need for additional vehicles, fuel, supplies, equipment for each additional officer, and training for the officers at a state certified accredited law enforcement academy.
Moeller provided historical data that showed that PPD is currently operating on a budget that is lower than the FY2004 budget for PPD that was $3,188,166 which is larger than the FY2019 budget of $3,093,273. The PPD budget request for FY2020 was listed at $3,255,289 on the proposed budget sheet distributed by Hinton at the meeting.
Assistant Chief Dustin Moeller (standing) presents request as council members
Tammy Valente and Jan Miller-Stevens review the data presented.
During the presentation, Moeller noted that the annexation by the city in 2012 increased the service area for PPD from 12.85 square miles to 18.11 square miles which at the time of the annexation added 20 businesses, 200 homes, and 800 citizens to the demand on PPD. Moeller also presented data showing that PPD only has one more officer patrolling the streets today in the city compared to 1978, which is forty-one years ago. PPD answered 600 more calls in 2018 than nearby Slidell, Louisiana.
According to Moeller’s presentation, Slidell has eleven officers per shift, while PPD has 4 officers per shift. He also said that PPD is operating today with fewer employees (55 – 53 full time and 2 part time) than 2005 when the PPD had 71 employees (59 full time and 12 part time). Moeller presented a graph that showed PPD responded to 31,647 calls for service in 2018 compared to 24,832 in 2012.
This past summer, Chief Bryan Dawsey and Moeller created a Street Crime Unit with a goal of create a PPD presence in some of the more troubled neighborhoods while building a positive relationship between PPD officers and the community members. Moeller said they were able to do this by putting the six officers assigned to the Picayune schools in the patrol division and placed six officers in the Street Crimes Unit.
According to the statistics Moeller presented, the crime rate went down 94 percent compared to the same period of time in 2018. From May 24, 2018 until August 1, 2018, the PPD worked 302 crimes involving vehicle burglaries, residential burglaries, commercial burglaries, and malicious mischiefs. This summer, due to having six additional officers and implementing the Street Crimes Unit, there were only 12 crimes.
Moeller also showed that revenue generated by PPD via citations and arrests continues to fall in spite of the number of citations and arrests numbers going up. Moeller attributed the larger problem is those arrested are being put right back on the street by the judicial system, thus making the work of the PPD at times somewhat for nothing.
In closing Moeller told the council and clerks, “We are not here demanding this, we are hoping they you all can sharpen your pencils and help us out.”