RINGGOLD, Ga. -- Catoosa County sheriff's deputies soon will have laptop computers in their patrol vehicles, thanks to federal stimulus money.
The Catoosa County Sheriff's Department has received $160,000 in grants to buy laptops for 32 patrol vehicles as well as the necessary software and training.
All front-line deputies will have the laptops installed and training completed by November, officials said.
Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers said the department has wanted to buy laptops for 10 years, but couldn't afford them.
"But luckily, with the federal stimulus package, there were monies there that we qualified for and were very fortunate to receive," Sheriff Summers said.
"A lot of state and federal grants are matching-type grants; but the purchase and installation of these laptops won't cost the (Catoosa County) taxpayers a penny," he said.
Laptops are an important tool deputies can use to perform their job more efficiently, Sheriff Summers said.
"When an officer has to call in serial numbers on stolen property, tag numbers and other data to the dispatcher, the dispatch officer then has to call in the information to the various agencies. They then have to call the officer back with the information.
"With the laptops in the cars, it takes the dispatcher out of it, sending the information straight to the officer," he said.
Deputies also will be able to do accident and incident reports in their cars, eliminating handwritten reports.
Sheriff's Department Maj. Gary Sisk said the Catoosa officers are excited about using the new equipment and procedures.
"They will have all the information they need at their fingertips right there in the car," he said. That will include access to photos, he said, which will help them assess potentially dangerous situations more quickly and accurately.
"If a dispatcher is looking at a photo of a suspect, that's great; but it doesn't do the officer much good in the field," he said.
Although local-option sales taxes have helped his department through the years, Sheriff Summers said purchases such as the laptops would not ever be possible without the grants.
This year has been particularly difficult, he said, with budget cuts forced by the economic downturn.
"We had to cut $500,000 this year out of our operating budget of $6 million, with most of those cuts coming in personnel," Sheriff Summers said.
Karen Phillips is based in Catoosa County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.