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E.C. police go high-tech thanks to grant funds

August 07, 2001|STAFF REPORT

The El Centro Police Department has some new high-tech equipment in its inventory, thanks to several state grants it has received over recent months.

The department's new $265,585 dispatch center, funded in part by the California Law Enforcement Equipment Program high-technology grant, went online July 31. And in a technological addition in the field, patrol officers will receive training Aug. 16 on four new video cameras that will be mounted in police units for evidence-gathering purposes.

The specially designed cameras cost $5,000 each. According to police Lt. Ron Merideth, they are much different from "off-the-shelf" video cameras. They are designed to withstand the rigors of being mounted in patrol cars and withstand the heat of Imperial Valley summers.

The cameras can be remotely operated up to 100 feet to video a traffic accident or crime scene.

"The El Centro Police Department is the first agency in the Valley to deploy the cameras on such a large scale," Merideth said in a press release.

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Meanwhile, in the department's dispatch center, operators are using a new system that replaced an obsolete piece of equipment that was virtually impossible to repair.

According to Maria Birdsall, supervisor of the department's dispatch center, the former consoles were 15 to 20 years old.

"There were no parts available and we virtually had to keep things together with chewing gum," she said in a press release.

At times, malfunctions resulted in dispatchers not being able to hear officers in the field.

Birdsall said the state-of-the- art consoles facilitate crucial communications between officers and dispatchers.

The consoles and the cameras are just a few of the recent high-tech additions to the department.

The same grant that funded the cameras allowed the department to purchase new cell phones, tape recorders and digital cameras as well as night vision devices, taser weapons and a 40 mm weapons system.

Merideth said the night vision devices are used for viewing situations in dark areas. One was purchased for each of the department's two night patrol teams.

The department also has deployed a "less lethal" taser weapon, a hand-held device that can deliver a 50,000-volt, 28-amp charge to an aggressor.

The 40 mm weapons system is a single-shot, breech-loaded rifle that has electronically controlled sights. It is designed to deliver chemical agents or less-lethal rounds that have soft rubber tips designed to be used against a physically aggressive or armed subject.

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