Van Zandt County commissioners approved the fire marshall to look into grants to equip the county's constable cars with video and audio gear, but constables said that is only one item on a list of needs.
“There may not be any grants out there, but a lot of times I will get emails that say I have a couple of days to get” a grant application submitted, he said. “By law, you have to have approval from the commissioners court to apply for grants. Now I have a blanket idea, I can apply for 50 grants for the constables and myself.”
Arson equipment would give Allen an advantage in investigating crimes.
“Right now, we have to rely on a K9 to do any kind of accelerant detection on any type of suspicious fires,” he said. “You could be waiting days for a K9, and there is real reliable accelerant equipment available for use, especially because I'm a one-man office.”
Constables said the equipment would help in dangerous situations and help condense the amount of work on a racial profiling report they are legally required to file each year, but it is not at the top of their list of needs.
Precinct 2 Constable C.B. Wiley and Precinct 4 Constable Pat Jordan both said they need a computer in their cars with the ability to run a program called Cop Sync, which allows the officers to look up driving records, warrant information and photos of suspects without calling dispatch.
“If we get that equipment, we wouldn't know what to do,” Wiley said. “I need some kind of computer system, no question about it. We are in a different world than we were 50 years ago.”
Jordan said even the computer system in his office is outdated.
“I do have a computer in my office,” he said, noting he intends to purchase one with some drug seizure money in his budget. “It's 12 years old, and it doesn't have a USB port at all.”
Wiley said his bookkeeping system consists of 5-inch-by-5-inch cards on which he writes his notes, and while the system works great when electricity goes down, he relies on his memory to find files.
Jordan said constables are operating like they did in the 1980s, but while the county does not provide current technology, the situation has improved somewhat.
“The county three years ago purchased vehicles for us and we have county radar units,” he said, adding they have a gas allowance as well.
Van Zandt Precinct 2 County Commissioner Virgil Melton Jr. said law enforcement, maintain of roads and the court system.
“We are trying to do all we can for them,” he said, “The problem is we are in such a recession, and we had to cut so much of our budget this year, and there are very little funds” available.
Melton said depending on the shape of the county at the end of the year, it could be faced with raising taxes for its fiscal year 2014 to reinstate some services.
Updated Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 9:35 a.m. CDT