Archived Story

Grants fund new equipment

Published 10:00pm Saturday, October 12, 2013

The City Council retreat held Oct. 3-4 received a couple of stealth visitors.

During a police presentation, a pair of double doors in the Health and Human Services building opened, and a black contraption rolled in bearing a paper gift bag.

The claw extended toward Mayor Linda T. Johnson and opened, and the mayor gingerly removed the gift bag.

The robot is a new acquisition of the Suffolk Police Department and was purchased with a $106,000 grant that required no match by the city, Police Chief Thomas Bennett said.

“We can use the robot in a lot of situations where we wouldn’t have to send an officer in initially,” Bennett said. “We can gather intelligence with it in a number of situations where otherwise we may not be able to.”

The most obvious application for the robot would be when a person is barricaded in a building, possibly ready to harm himself or others.

The robot comes equipped with cameras, a system that allows the operator to talk to anyone near the robot and for those people to talk back, a laser beam that can be used to scare suspects and more.

Another grant purchase made recently was a set of four cameras, along with carrying cases and software. The cameras can be placed on a stand and set anywhere there is a problem and can monitor parking lots, crowds or other situations.

“There’s a whole lot of applications for it,” Bennett said. “If we had a parking lot where cars are getting broken into on a fairly consistent basis, we could put a camera in a hidden position and monitor it from afar.”

In the past, Bennett said, a police officer might have been stationed on the roof of a nearby building, but now the officer can take care of other duties.

“If we have a tactical callout, a barricaded suspect, we would put the cameras possibly around the house to keep an eye on the house,” he added. “We wouldn’t have to use our officers in that situation.”

The cameras were purchased with a $35,000 grant that also required no city match, Bennett told City Council members at the retreat.

The police department has done well at nabbing grants, Bennett added, with about $191,000 being received so far this year.

However, he added, “From a police perspective, grants are drying up, and they’re drying up quickly.”

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  • Savannah

    Just drove past Driver Days and saw our Mobile Command Center on display.

    Lord, what a damn waste.

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  • MrJiggyFly

    LB should not assume that everyone who comments here does not have some sort of relationship with law enforcement. Just sayin.

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  • Savannah

    Sorry, LB, again, I like you, but this is just something we’re gonna have to disagree on.

    I don’t think the Suffolk PD operates like M.I.B.

    No, definitely not, they have a budget..

    From now on, you’ll dress only in attire specially sanctioned by MIB Special Services. You’ll conform to the identity we give you, eat where we tell you, live where we tell you, get approval for any expenditure over a hundred dollars. You will have no identifying marks of any kind. You will not stand out in any way. Your entire image is carefully crafted to leave no lasting memory whatsoever with anyone you encounter. You’re a rumor, recognizable only as deja vu and dismissed just as quickly. You don’t exist; you were never even born. Anonymity is your name. Silence, your native tongue. You are no longer part of “the system.” We’re above the system. Over it. Beyond it. We’re “them.” We’re “they.” We are the Men in Black.

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  • jhuxster

    I guess Lovebug expects us to believe you can have a barricaded person in every city in the area and it makes the news, but when something like that happens in Suffolk, which would truly be a rarity, it doesn’t make the news. And again, if it happens once a year you cannot justify a $100K plus expenditure. In regards to less police being on scene you don’t understand how that works. They surround the building so the suspect has no way out. Of course, I suppose this robot could just stun the suspect with its phaser (oops I thought this was Star Trek).

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    • whitemarshtaxpayer

      It is quite humorous that she is the only person in my city that has the inside skinny on everything that has to do with the PD … We the underlings and the ones that foot the bills have no reason or the capacity of common sense to be allowed to know anything … We are supposed to open our checkbooks with smiling faces and say YES to their idiotic whims… Now this is my opinion !!!!!! Vote all the incumbents out !!!!! Anyone can do a better job .. It will be hard to find a more incompetent self serving bunch

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      • jhuxster

        I can suggest two–one resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the other is the Senate Majority Leader.

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  • jhuxster

    Lovebug–If I recall correctly, you’re one who likes to complain about your taxes but seem to have no problem when it comes to money spent on the police department. However, there are some key points I don’t expect you to understand but they are important:

    No one who is against these purchases are against the police. However, you have to balance safety with costs–and in this case the costs are out of proportion to the safety issue. I understand you have a police officer in your family. Thank you. But part of them taking the job is the knowledge you willingly will, at times, put your life in harm’s way.

    Second, the assumption that the robot makes things safe is just that–an assumption. I suppose you’re operating on the premise a bad guy with a gun is going to let a robot into their home to look around. I believe it’s just as likely that a bad guy with a gun is likely to begin indiscriminately shooting when they here the robot approaching. How many will be hurt needlessly? What if it’s a two-story building. In that case the robot is useless. Sometimes, added technology doesn’t make the police safer but less safe. Police are trained (or should be) to handle theses incidents safely. They have done so for years. Without being cold or calloused, when is the last time a police officer in Suffolk was shot in a situation into which this robot will be deployed? Good police work and careful consideration of all options typically minimize or eliminate police injuries.

    Third, in the last year between the boat, the RV, and this our police department has wasted more than $1 million in tax dollars. This past weekend, our police RV which can track offshore boats was useless in finding a downed plane in our backyard. Great expenditure of money! Of course, I guess it looked good at the Peanut Fest. And please, don’t use the excuse it’s a grant. Grants don’t grow on trees. They come from money from overtaxed working people. This grabbing after grants illustrates why our governments can’t balance their books—everyone wants the “free” money. Well, I hate to break the news–it’s not free but comes from the hard work of overburdened taxpayers.

    Fourth–the money spent on these luxuries could have been used for things we need–like new text books, classroom supplies, etc. Let’s stop wasting money and demand wise, prudent and sensible expenditures from our city government.

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    • Lovebug

      I think you have me confused for someone else. I’m not the one who complains about taxes, they are a simple part of life and not going away so why bother to complain. They suck yes, but they are what they are.

      Many things purchased in every city are a waste of money and everyone has their own opinion. In this case I feel, in my opinion, the robot is great for those who will be using it and for those citizens it will benefit. I highly suggest you research the ROBOT they just purchased and its use to the police and what other depts have used theirs for. I would also urge many to sign up to ride around with our officers so you can see first hand whats going on in this city and what they deal with. I think you will be surprised.

      I have never said that any of you are against the Police but many times its clear that there is a very clear lack of knowledge of what they do and are dealing with daily. We don’t just live in a back country Suffolk anymore and we are having the very same “city” issues as the surrounding cities. I’ve noticed on another article someone pointed out how they often see two police cars parked in a shopping center parking lot or other places with their cars hood to rear and the officers talking away. The hood to rear parking is of safety and many times (most often) they are getting together regarding a call they were on together and doing paperwork. That being said, yes there are bad apples in every bunch but 9 times out of 10 our officers are doing what they need to do in order to get their work completed. When they go on a call they don’t just leave and that call is complete. They have mounds of paperwork to do and they can’t complete it at the scene. Many go to several calls back to back before they can stop long enough to do their paperwork and often times thats when you will see one many two officers sitting in a parking lot. We have also had several stores being robbed lately and these officers have been assigned to sitting in parking lots/driving around the parking lots for an amount of time. There is simply so much more to their every day job that we as citizens don’t know yet there is so much judgement when they are seen doing what they do.

      Again, these are only my opinions. We all have them.

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      • Savannah

        I just found an interesting site
        http://www.policegrantshelp.com/

        I read this article:

        http://www.policegrantshelp.com/news/100255-Anti-Terror-Funds-Have-Other-Uses/

        At any rate, I did just do some research on these robots, and again, where is the supporting documentation via court dockets and arrests that something like that will be used here? If it is, it’ll be so rare, they’ll have to knock the dust off it first or it’ll malfunction.

        I was the one that brought up the tail to nose parking. No one said they’re fartin’ around, just that is where I’ve seen them parked numerous times. I don’t have binoculars trained on them, so who knows what they’re up to. But it is a common place for them to be.

        Anyhow, this is not something we’re going to agree on. I’d rather each officer received a BT headset at 20$ each (approx 200 officers in Suffolk) that should be used while on duty instead of seeing them speeding through the streets with a phone to their ear, than to see $106k go to Johnny Five. There would have been $102k leftover to buy waste elsewhere.

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      • Lovebug

        Savannah Gal…..All I can say is that there are operations that take place all the time that the SWAT Team does that this ROBOT will be used for. They didn’t just jump up one day and say “hey it would be cool to have a ROBOT to play with” Things have taken place that would have either been easier or safer for the officers and the citizens if a ROBOT could have been deployed. Because of this the talk of a ROBOT came about. Its not something that takes place just because. There is thought that goes into it, input, and research before this kind of purchase is even considered.

        The grant site you posted is a very good site. What I want to point out that is a complete shame is that in some cases grants are being used to purchase bullet proof vests. Its a shame to me that because the city doesn’t have it in their budget of tax money we all pay many officers are wearing vests that are OUT OF DATE or don’t fit properly anymore. Rather than the City funding the money they are left to find other ways to fund new vests.

        Things are not always what they seem and again as I’ve said so many times things go on in this City that would make your heads spin. Just because you don’t read or hear about them doesn’t mean its not happening. Ask any Police Officer or their family member and they will tell you.

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      • jhuxster

        Again just another excuse to waste tax dollars. I’ve lived in Suffolk for almost 10 years and cannot recall more than once or twice anyone has been barricaded in where this robot will do what it’s supposed to. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for toys–but can’t do the things we’re supposed to do. Sorry, but now the taxpayers have to foot the bill for operating these new toys. Does anyone know of ANY instance in the last 12 months the RV has been used for any legitimate police purpose in our city (and public relations don’t count)? Of course not. And that is my point.

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      • Lovebug

        If my memory is serving me correctly “Huxster” there was a barricaded person about 2 weeks ago in the early morning hours that they were having an issue making contact with. The ROBOT would have served its purpose that day.Its much safer to send a robot up to a door than it is to send a human body up to a door and no one know whats going on on the other side of it. This ROBOT gives an officer the ability to talk to someone who will not answer a phone or is threatened by an officer. It can also cut down the amount of time they have 20 police officers at one scene. Again, there are calls in this city that don’t make the news. Just because you are not hearing all that goes on doesn’t mean its not going on and just because there is an arrest or someone on the court docket for what ever its NOT going to state on the docket how they were arrested or the events that took place to arrest them. There is plenty of wasted tax dollars in this city and every city but the purchase of this ROBOT (in my own opinion) is a great tool for the PD and for those citizens they are trying to help.

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      • Savannah

        I’m a news junkie and I can’t find anything about a barricaded person. I did find an article from Dec. 2008 where SPD “closed the 1100 block of E. Washington Street in Suffolk to apprehend a wanted suspect.”

        No matter. $106k is insane, and $35k for 4 cameras was just plain stupid. It’s an abuse of funds plain and simple and I can’t imagine anyone but the police department, their family or friends and our city leaders being thrilled about this.

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      • whitemarshtaxpayer

        Well said Savannah

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      • Lovebug

        Like I said several times….not EVERYTHING makes the news. Criminals are picked up everyday from warrants where the SWAT team is needed etc and that doesn’t make news. Every entry they do is high risk with issues and it never makes news. Happens in every city not just Suffolk. Believe me this isn’t the sleepy country Suffolk many believe it to be all the more reason for people to get out there with the Police Officers to ride around during a shift so you can see exactly what they are dealing with and what our tax dollars are being used for. I can assure you it would be an eye opener for many who comment on this site.

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  • MrJiggyFly

    Who is the source of the these grants? And where is the money coming from so these sources can hand out these grants?

    $35,000 for four cameras, cases and software. Call me crazy but that’s $8,750 per camera. I could set up an all-weather game camera purchased from Cabelas that could do the same thing. Cost $200 to $500 each.

    “While we are in our beds at night asleep these officers are dealing with crap that would keep us from sleeping for weeks”. Really? If they are so bad, then there must be arrests. Right? How come they are no making the crime report, court docket or the newspaper?

    I’d be interested to see the revenue vs. expenses sheet on the omnipotent police boat (blown engines, joy rides throughout Hampton Roads, etc.) and the land yacht (Mobile Relaxation Station).

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  • Lovebug

    I’m happy for the Police Officers that this Robot has finally been purchased. The Officers on the SWAT Team, the NARC Unit, and even the Neighborhood Enforcement Team will be much safer in dealing with the crud of our City. Folks you have to remember that things go on in this city that are not reported. While we are in our beds at night asleep these officers are dealing with crap that would keep us from sleeping for weeks. I have family members that are running out of the house at all hours of the night to respond to issues that this ROBOT can help them with and possibly save their life or the mentally ill person they are trying to help. More and more in our society they are dealing with some severly mentally ill people who at the time don’t care who is trying to help them. They will cause harm to them in a second. I personally thank the Chief for his approval of applying for these grants to provide more safety to my family members, other officers, and the very ill citizens of this city and possibly others in the surrounding cities.

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    • whitemarshtaxpayer

      BLAH
      BLAH
      BLAH
      What a broken record

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      • Lovebug

        You most certainly are a broken record and I expect NOTHING less from you since you seem to have zero respect for what any Police Officer does.

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    • whitemarshtaxpayer

      RAOFLMAO … Speaking of predictable LOL

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    • Savannah

      Lovebug-

      No one wants our officers in harms way and we understand the job is dangerous. Anything within reason that keeps them safer is good, but this robot purchase was over the top and a complete waste. We’re in Suffolk, VA. not Inglewood, Compton, Watts, CA. or some place like that. We’re not in Washington DC or NY, New York where there may be threat of terrorist activity.

      Like MrJiggyFly asked, if these serious crimes are happening that necessitate the use of a robot, why are there no arrests, no supporting evidence of such occurrences? This was bought because for now, our city leaders are out of control and know darn well the clock is tickin’ on their time to continue these shenanigans.

      I like you, LB, I really do, but this is a waste. I don’t think there are enough instances of mentally ill people eating someones face off to warrant such a blatant mishandling of funds, and that is what this was. This robot going to roll in and administer Thorazine to a mentally ill person, or just daze them with it’s laser beam? The purchase of the Mobile Command Center was a waste, as was the boat purchase was. 35k for cameras? More waste. $106k for this robot? Seriously?

      There is absolutely no sugar coating this one. I too have family in law enforcement (in CA) and want them safe, but face it, we’re in Podunk VA, and there is no justification for such waste here.

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  • Savannah

    $35k for cameras.

    4 of them.

    4.

    35k.

    “Cameras can be placed instead of an officer”.. then time can be spent hopefully identifying the suspects, that were possibly caught on camera. Like we see on the news everyday..

    /sigh
    Suffolk is full of win.

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  • jhuxster

    I wonder how often, in the space of a year, that the police in this community actually face someone barricaded in a locked room or building? Better yet–let’s expand that further–how many times in three years do they face such a situation? Since we don’t hear of many such incidents in our community, like the RV it will look good at the Peanut Feast and of course, it can be used to bring coffee to the chief. The excuse, it’s grant money is getting old. Grant money is nothing more than tax dollars taken from group of people and given to another. The money isn’t free? One last observation–since this is clearly a piece of electronics equipment it requires software to make it work. How much will to upgrades cost the taxpayers of the city? At some point, someone, somewhere has to grow some common sense–and not get every new toy that comes along.

    And one I can’t resist–apparently our new police RV can track boats off shore but it’s totally useless in finding an airplane crashed in the swamp just a few miles from the city proper. Can anyone other than me say total waste of tax dollars?

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    • jhuxster

      The money isn’t free should be a statement not a question–sorry. Computer error.

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    • Savannah

      And one I can’t resist–apparently our new police RV can track boats off shore but it’s totally useless in finding an airplane crashed in the swamp just a few miles from the city proper.

      I just stood up and applauded this.

      I also called my son in to read it because he has a cold & feels yucky and I figured he could use the laughter.
      I was right. :)

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  • Savannah

    hahahaha! Are you freaking kidding me!? LOL!

    The robot comes equipped with cameras, a system that allows the operator to talk to anyone near the robot and for those people to talk back, a laser beam that can be used to scare suspects and more.

    hahaha! It’s like Austin Powers and the laser beams attached to a sharks head!

    The police department has done well at nabbing grants, Bennett added, with about $191,000 being received so far this year.

    However, he added, “From a police perspective, grants are drying up, and they’re drying up quickly.”

    Mobile command unit that will never get used (for realz, not just wasting gas and fartin’ around), new boat and now some saaaaaaaaaweeeeeeeeeeeeet!! Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots!

    So, you’re doing well getting money (and wasting it), yet complaining it’s “drying up” now?? Umm..okay…

    $106,000 would have gone a long way in getting Blue Tooth into the police cars and off their cell phones FWIW.

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  • whitemarshtaxpayer

    I wonder if the new taxpayer toy can drive the new mobile police luxury coach ?? It does make for a morning laugh !!!!

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