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Police buying new computers

The new system, which will cost $559,000, will allow Pinellas Park officers to write reports in their cars. The convenience will keep them on the street more.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000


PINELLAS PARK -- City officials are poised to spend $559,000 for computers that will allow police officers to write reports in their cars rather than returning to the station.

That equipment will be used with about $175,000 worth of laptop computers Pinellas Park has bought over the past two years. That brings the cost for the entire system to about $734,000.

The idea behind the new system is to keep officers on the street, which makes them more visible and more accessible .

The new system will let officers get information directly from department records and other data sources. Under the existing system, officers have to come into the department to write their reports because that's the only way they can get that information.

The actual cost for the new system is about $493,000. But Pinellas Park plans to pay only $258,000 up front. Most of that down payment comes from federal grant money.

The remaining $235,000 will be paid over seven years in a lease purchase plan. With the interest, that brings the total to $301,000, or $66,000 more than if the city bought the equipment outright.

City Manager Jerry Mudd defended his recommendation to use a lease purchase by saying that it makes sense to do it that way.

Motorola, which is selling the equipment to Pinellas Park, will charge 63/4 percent interest, Mudd said. The city is getting 61/2 percent on its investments, so the loss is not much.

One of the other benefits, he said, is that Motorola will charge less for upgrades as the technology and software changes.

"If it's a lease purchase, the vendor knows they may get the equipment back, so they want to keep it upgraded so they can sell it at a better price later on," Mudd said.

The decision to upgrade the police computers has been controversial.

When police Chief David Milchan first suggested it in April, council members discovered that most of the police laptops had been sitting in a closet rather than being used.

To make matters worse, it first appeared the laptops would be eclipsed by newer technology. But after study, city officials discovered they could use the laptops and the new technology as well.

That's what Mudd is recommending the council do.

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