By Seth Daniel
When police officers in most communities make a vehicle stop or an inquiry of a person, they can type in a license plate or identity into computers in their cruisers, which helps them instantly determine whether or not the person might be dangerous.
In Everett, officers don’t have computers in their cruisers and so they don’t have that ability. Despite several attempts to outfit cruisers with what local officials call “life saving” equipment, there have been many starts and stops.
“In a lot of communities when police officers stop someone, they have a computer and they can type in the license plate,” said Councilor Richard Dell Isola. “Before the officer gets out of the car, they can find out if that person has a warrant or is wanted or dangerous. Right now in Everett, they have to call into the station with a license plate. By the time that information gets back to them, they are likely out of their cruisers. That’s too late, especially in these times. As a Council, we are all committed to getting these in the cruisers as soon as possible. In this day and age, it could save a life.”
Despite the fact that everyone wants them, the funding has been elusive.
The latest stop came just last December when Gov. Charlie Baker cut out of the State Budget all earmarks, including a $75,000 earmark secured by State Sen. Sal DiDomenico for the police computers.
Now, however, Mayor Carlo DeMaria and the City Council hope to use local funding to get the laptop computers – computers that at one time had been funded through a key State Budget earmark championed by Sen. Sal DiDomenico.
“New technology is critical in helping police officers perform their jobs safely,” said the mayor. “By investing in laptop computers in each cruiser, our officers will be able to access police databases, allowing them gather information on such things as outstanding warrants, quickly and efficiently.”
On Monday night, Mayor DeMaria forwarded a request to take the $75,000 from Free Cash to buy the computers.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said the request has come into his Ways and Means Committee and he will do everything he can to report it out of committee soon.
He said he supports the measure and hopes that the City can get the computers in the cars as soon as possible.
Dell Isola said he would like to see the laptops in cruiser by the summer, when things usually start to pick up.
“Definitely, the sooner the better,” he said.
Meanwhile, DiDomenico said he believed the cuts by the governor, including the police computer earmark and several others, were not necessary. He said the budget numbers tend to improve in the first of the year every year, and that such drastic cuts might have come before taking in all of the information.
“It was not an emergency by any means,” he said. “We should have waited a little longer to make those kinds of cuts. The deficit at this time was very, very small and could have been made up in the coming months. Historically, we’ve always done pretty well on the back end of the fiscal year. The timing here was really bad…It’s disappointing he cut this one because our public safety officers need this information and don’t know who it is they’re stopping…It’s critical for officer safety.”
DiDomenico said he hopes to put in another request as the budget season continues, and could end up reimbursing the City for the expenditure.
“I hope we can find a way to make this happen anyway through substitute budgets or with the City funds,” he said. “As the revenue numbers come in over the next few months, we’ll see where we are and if any of this can be restored.”