READING, Mich. - The town's police department may have only two patrol cars and a handful of officers, but that doesn't mean it's unequipped with the latest in law enforcement technology.
The department recently received seven laptop computers through a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. A new video camera and two digital cameras from the same program gives this tiny southeast Michigan police department a high-tech, big-city look.
“Everybody else in the big towns has this equipment,” police Chief David Graham said. “This program gives us a chance in the little towns to get equipment like this.”
Reading police will be the only department in Hillsdale County with computers installed in each patrol car, Chief Graham said. The computers are either slightly used or government surplus.
The total value of the equipment was more than $30,000, which equals half of the department's $60,000 annual budget. But thanks to the Defense Information Systems Agency program, Reading was responsible only for $150 in shipping costs.
“We've been involved in the program since June and it has benefited us greatly,” Chief Graham said.
Law enforcement agencies apply to become a part of the program.
Reading is one of about 300 departments statewide involved in the program, said Sgt. Richard Wood, the program's state coordinator. The Hillsdale Sheriff's Department also participates.
Departments involved in the program file equipment requests through Sergeant Wood of the Michigan National Guard.
“In Michigan, we pass about $3 million of equipment through to law enforcement agencies,” he said. “It's open to all large departments statewide but this program is really beneficial to the Reading-type folks.”
The Reading police department has one part-time and two full-time officers. It patrols a city of about 1,400 people, about 65 miles northwest of Toledo. And it has only two blue-and-white patrol cars. But with seven computers available, not only will each car get a computer, each officer will as well, Chief Graham said.
“These computers will allow the officers to spend more time on the street and less time doing data entry at the station,” he said.
The police department received the computers earlier this month, Chief Graham said.
Other southeast Michigan agencies taking part in the program are the Tecumseh police department in Lenawee County and the Monroe County sheriff's department, which has received weapons and an armored vehicle.
The national program is available in Ohio.
Reading Mayor Randy Sprow credits the department's new equipment to Chief Graham, who initiated the town's involvement. With relatively few resources to buy equipment, Reading welcomes all the donated technology it can get, he said.
“In every small community you're always faced with a resource issue,” Mr. Sprow said. “The trick is to try to provide the maximum number of hours with the number of staff you can fund.
“Any time they can save time and keep officers out on patrol is beneficial.”