Sheriff rewrites grant request
Former sheriff says prior request was done deal
ARENAC COUNTY — An approved grant request worth roughly $85,000 that would provide the Arenac County Sheriff’s Office with in-car laptops was rewritten by the office’s new administration for dive equipment worth approximately $75,000.
According to Todd Alexander, Lapeer City Police Chief and Chair of the Region III Law Enforcement Terrorist Prevention Program (LETPP), Mosciski’s new request has been preliminarily approved by LETPP and has two more steps, approval by the Department of Homeland Security (the entity funding the grant program) and the state of Michigan, before the funds will be received by Arenac County.
Sheriff James Mosciski says the funds, are being requested for different equipment mainly due to the tenor of the police officers in the department over the grant request of the former administration.
“They (deputies) don’t want in-car computers,” Mosciski said, adding that entering data in the computers would lower efficiency of the officers on the road. “When they’re doing that (re-ports on the laptops), they’re not doing their jobs out there on the road.”
He also cited an incident in Sterling Heights, where an officer was shot and killed in his patrol car while typing a report, as a reason to be cautious about the laptops.
Undersheriff Don McIntyre says there are other reasons why the department doesn’t want the computers in police cars.
“The upkeep on them is way too expensive,” he said, adding space and safety played a factor in the decision as well, since he says with two officers in a car and a laptop in the middle of them, the computer could get in the way and could be sent flying inside the car in the case of an accident or sudden stop. McIntyre also says the computers didn’t have the ability to run the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN), which is what Arenac County Central Dispatch uses to run license plate numbers of pulled over vehicles.
“We already tested out that program and it doesn’t work,” McIntyre also said. “If your guys don’t want them and they don’t use them properly, then what good are they to us?”
According to the recently appointed undersheriff, costs would be incurred by the purchase of air cards for wireless Internet connection, which would be necessary to sync the laptops to other departments throughout Region III.
Former sheriff Ronald Bouldin, who applied for the original grant, disagrees with the sheriff and undersheriff and says the computers would make the department more efficient.
“It would have saved us hundreds of hours of manpower,” Bouldin said, adding the laptops would have allowed officers on patrol to type reports on the spot with talk and type technology and download digital photographs taken on the scene, making the department 62 percent more efficient overall.
Mosciski and McIntyre, however, say claims of efficiency are not applicable to Arenac County.
“If you can’t run LEIN on it, and you have to come back and download to these computers (in the office), where are you saving time or money?” Mosciski said, adding costs incurred due to the computers would negatively affect the department. “The maintenance was going to cost an arm and a leg.”
But Bouldin claims the computers weren’t only about efficiency, but part of a regional homeland security plan approved in Region III (the Department of Homeland Security region in Michigan that Arenac County is geographically located in).
“The region writes a project justification. … The project justifications were written based on the federal and state guidance to combat terrorism,” he said. “It was meant to regionalize.
“All 14 counties could communicate with one another (with the computers).”
Bouldin says the dive equipment requested isn’t part of the project justification.
“Regionalization and partnership were what drives the money,” the former sheriff said. “Is he (Mosciski) going to become a regional dive team? This county can’t afford to do that.
“He failed us as the general public.”
Bouldin also says the dive equipment is more than what’s necessary for the sheriff’s department, since only one officer under his administration was suitable to perform body recovery dives and that individual probably comes up short of the full requirements.
Mosciski says, though, with developments looming in the future on the Saganing Reservation in Standish Township, boating traffic will likely pick up, especially near Eagle Bay Marina; Arenac County technically shares a maritime border with Canada; and there have been several drowning incidents in the county’s inland lakes (four in 1990, thirteen in 1989, according to Mosciski), so the request has a good chance to be approved.
“Arenac was one of several counties throughout our region that requested dive equipment,” Alexander said. He added that there are three different types of projects grant requests can fall under: interpersonal protection equipment (the dive equipment), interoperable communications and information sharing (the laptops, according to Alexander, could fall under either of the latter two).
The sheriff also says he has contacted the Genessee County Sheriff’s Department about recovering a boat given to it by Bouldin last year. Mosciski says Michael Becker, a Captain in Genessee County, has already agreed to return the boat.
But the former sheriff says the approval of that request would go against the goals of Region III and the progress of the department as a whole.
“I’m not saying that they (Department of Homeland Se-curity) won’t give it to him (Sheriff Mosciski), I don’t think they should,” Bouldin said, adding the office can’t afford to take a step back technologically, due to labor costs. “You can’t just throw bodies at issues.
“When I got there (sheriff’s office), we were (technologically) in 1983, when I left there, we were in the mid 90’s. With the computers we would have been in 2000.”
Bouldin also says the Arenac County Board of Commission-ers, who were informed of the homeland security grant by him, dropped the ball by allowing Mosciski to rewrite the request.
Board Chairman, Raymond Daniels, however, says the board of commissioners isn’t interested in micro-managing the issues of individual departments.
“When Mr. Bouldin decided to do that and apply for those computers, that was his decision,” Daniels said. “We (commissioners) had no input on that and I don’t think we should have had any input on that.
“I think the less micro-managing the commissioners do, the better. … It’s not up to me to tell him (Mosciski) how to run his department.”
But Daniels is familiar with the costs that may be incurred from the in-car computers.
“There is a fairly high maintenance cost with those computers,” he said.
Mosciski says he is scheduled to meet with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security on Feb. 10 in Bay City to further discuss the grant request.