Police Chief Robert Hassell was quick to make clear what is on his checklist of items needed for the police department: New vehicles.
“And the city has graciously given us the funds to take care of that,” Hassell told the Telegram on Thursday, a reference to the fiscal year 2021-22 City of Rocky Mount operating budget in place since June 28.
Hassell became Rocky Mount’s new top cop in May, but he reported for work at a department at which replacing police patrol vehicles was not on the priority list.
That was because of belt-tightening because of a fiscal year 2020-21 municipal budget that had to take into account the financial uncertainties due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
During a city council work session on June 2 about the then-proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget, Assistant to the City Manager for Budget and Evaluation Kenneth Hunter showed plans called for quite an injection of additional funding for the police department.
Hunter showed the then-proposed budget called for the department to be funded nearly $18.3 million compared to slightly more than $16.9 million the council approved for fiscal year 2020-21.
Hunter said significant changes included roughly $600,000 in funding to acquire new police patrol vehicles and funding to replace the onboard cameras.
Hunter also said a significant change included an increase in funding for contracts tied not only to maintenance and support of but the replacement of officer body-worn cameras and electroshock weapons.
Hunter said the police department has had the present cameras in service for several years and that most of the present electroshock weapons are antiquated and no longer serviceable by the manufacturer.
Hunter also said a significant change included increasing the matching funds for grants needed for purchasing bulletproof vests.
The city shares 50 percent of the costs for the replacement of such protective equipment with the federal government, which is done on a yearly schedule.
Hunter said that means the numbers fluctuate from year to year in terms of quantity, purchases and the amounts of money needed to purchase them.
Hunter also said the city needed to make an increase in anticipation of the grant expected to be received from the federal government.
The proposed budget for the police department was approved as part of the fiscal 2021-22 budget by the council on June 28.
As for the present fleet of police patrol vehicles, Hassell on Thursday made clear to the Telegram that the city has a great maintenance staff to make sure the vehicles are inspected and serviced to make sure they are operating efficiently.
“There’s not an officer without a car to be able to go out and do their job,” Hassell said.
Hassell also said replacing the body-worn cameras, the onboard cameras and the electroshock weapons with new ones is a project that is moving forward.
When asked by the Telegram, Hassell said the firearms issued to officers are up to date and that the police department has equipment in stock and ready to be deployed quickly in cases of disorder or riots.
When asked by the Telegram whether there is any other equipment the officers need that they do not have that he wants to try to get for them, Hassell said, “No sir, nothing has been identified, no.”