SALEM - City police officers received some new protective gear Monday with the arrival of new body armor to replace their old vests.
Police Chief J.T. Panezott thanked the city administration, Mayor John Berlin, city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst and city council members for ensuring the department had the funding in this year's budget to make the purchase.
The department was able to purchase 20 bullet-proof vests at a cost of $850 each. Panezott said he still plans on trying to apply for a grant to reimburse the city for the cost, saying he felt the need to get the new vests as soon as possible and didn't want to wait for the grant.
He recently learned that the city has been awarded a $6,000 grant from the State of Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services to purchase two laptop computers to mount inside two of the cruisers. The grant does not cover the cost of software, but Panezott said he doesn't know how much that will cost at this point.
The city had applied for $20,000 in hopes of being able to equip all the cruisers with computers, but the amount awarded was $6,000, enough to cover the computers for two vehicles for now.
With a computer in the car, Panezott said officers will have access to information quicker and be able to know more when they pull a vehicle over before they even have contact with the person inside. They'll have access to any outstanding warrants, photographs of the person from their license and whether the person has a conceal carry permit.
If the car is stolen or the person registered is wanted for murder, the officer will know before getting out of the cruiser and have more information on how to proceed. According to Panezott, having that information quicker can be a lifesaver.
He said they'll also be able to spend more time in the field, cutting down the time they spend at the police station, because they'll be able to do reports in their cruisers.
The department also recently installed mounts in the cruisers for rifles, which the officers didn't have before. The department has seven marked units, all with rifles now.