Sunday, November 19, 2017
Public safety

St. Petersburg police could spend seized $450,000 on new gear

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ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council will consider Thursday a request from the police department to spend nearly $450,000 on new equipment from a forfeiture fund.

Police officials intend to spend most of the money on cameras, surveillance devices, body armor, computer software, workout machines and other equipment.

"This is money taken from bad guys," said Mayor Bill Foster.

Though they're not among the priciest items being requested, some of the most important may be nearly 500 gunshot trauma kits.

Events like the bombings at the Boston Marathon — where makeshift tourniquets saved many — have shown how useful the kits can be, said assistant police Chief Melanie Bevan.

At $47 each, 400 kits will include basic items for treating trauma, such as tourniquets and gauze. A handful of the more advanced and expensive kits will include things like pads that clot blood.

"I think that's a critical piece of equipment," Bevan said. "It's something we had over 20 years ago."

In a recent presentation to the council, officers intentionally supplied limited detail on some of the requests, including a $13,500 piece of equipment that will help negotiators better deal with hostage-takers.

Among the more expensive needs: $112,500 in speech recognition software and $70,000 to move and install cameras used during the Republican National Convention.

But at last Thursday's meeting, what dominated the discussion was one relatively inexpensive item that was not included.

Several council members wanted money allocated for the "walking school bus" program. Volunteers, who escort groups of kids to school, must undergo background checks that cost $50 before they can participate.

A police attorney said she didn't believe the forfeiture money, which is regulated by state and federal guidelines, could be used for such a program.

Council members disagreed, strongly.

"Fifty dollars is a lot of money for some people," council member Leslie Curran said. "If we've got a pool of money that we can use, I think we should use it."

Foster told the council that the city staff would review the regulations and, if allowed, the program would be added to the list.

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected]

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