NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FL – Sheriff Michael J. Chitwood of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on yesterday’s Volusia County Council meeting which led to an approval of several Sheriff’s Office budget items, which are summarized below.
I want to thank the Volusia County Council for approving the equipment we need to protect our deputies and our communities.
Here’s what was approved this week:
· The next generation of body camera technology (TASER 7), with more cameras and more capabilities ($2.3 million over 5 years). This includes technology that will automatically activate a deputy’s camera, and the cameras of others in the area, anytime a firearm is pulled from its holster or a Taser is used.
· All the technology, licensing and support that will allow us to upgrade our Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system and Records Management System, which is the crucial infrastructure that allows all of us to do our jobs ($4.4 million). Our current CAD system was purchased in 2002, and support for it is being phased out. More than 30 local public safety organizations rely on this technology.
· A trade-in of our current .40 caliber Glock handguns, some of which are 20 years old, in exchange for new 9mm Glock handguns ($134,184). These are the new standard used by the FBI and other major law enforcement organizations around the country.
· Ammunition to continue firearms training for our deputies ($117,850).
· A new Bearcat armored tactical rescue vehicle ($337,650) that will save lives when called upon. This was the only purchase request that was questioned, so I showed up to defend it and explain exactly why this equipment is needed.
The Sheriff’s Office currently has three armored tactical rescue vehicles, two of which are MRAPs that were provided to us by the federal government in the past for about $1,200 each. Here’s the reality: Those MRAPs can be taken away, which is what happened in 2015 when the Sheriff’s Office had to return two surplus military vehicles to Washington. We have to be prepared for that to happen again in the future. If we have to return 2 vehicles, without action, we would be down to 1, in a county that’s the size of Rhode Island, and home to 550,000 people and growing.
I know the critics say this is “militarizing the police” or going to war with our community. That’s just not true. Adding a Bearcat doesn’t change anything about our approach to community policing. These vehicles are used to PROTECT deputies and civilians in hostile situations with armed subjects, and to rescue people in all kinds of potentially dangerous conditions. The Sheriff’s Office has even used the Bearcat as an ambulance during a hurricane. When a tornado tears through our community, as it just did a month ago in DeLand, or when wildfires threaten our area, what kind of vehicle do you want ready to respond to your neighborhood?
For me, this was not a political decision. It was a practical one. If we wait and see if a future administration will take back the surplus equipment provided to us, then we’ll be way behind. The Bearcat we just ordered will take months to build and deliver. If we wait until every other agency in America is placing orders to replace recalled equipment, then we’ll be waiting in line for years.
The purchases approved this week are smart, forward-thinking ways to protect the lives of our deputies and the people they serve. We have been making prudent, fiscally conservative decisions for years in order to be able to make these purchases. They’re all within our budget. We’re forecast to come in $6.7 million under budget this year, and about $20 million under budget over the past 4 years. We are putting our money into programs and equipment that will make Volusia County a safer place for everyone.
The statement was also posted on Facebook and Twitter.