Presque Isle Police Department: Part V – grants and classes enhance safety

Chief Naldo Gagnon Special to the Star-Herald    , Special to The County
17 years ago

The Presque Isle Police Department is utilizing several grant opportunities where they receive money and equipment that the regular budget would not allow. Some of the grants the department has actively taken advantage of in the last six years are the following:
• Over $6,100 dollars has been taken in for the department to purchase three sets of cop cards (1999, 2002 and 2006). The cop cards have a photo of an officer on the front, along with a short biography on the back. On two sets of the cards there was a safety message on the back that was drug- or alcohol-related and the other set had a highway safety message on it. The cards were well sought after at first by a lot of children but it was soon learned that a lot of adults wanted the collector cards as well. The monies received for these grants were from the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, the Aroostook County Underage Drinking Coalition and from donations from Wal-Mart and the Presque Isle Elks Lodge. Without the support of the above organizations, none of the Cop Card projects would have been successful. Full, uncut sheets of the cards are posted throughout the city in businesses and schools to promote the program as well as the safety messages that are on each card. This program alone has brought officers in touch with hundreds of individuals dealing with something positive rather negative;
• The department has received three pieces of drug equipment from the Drug Technology Transfer Program worth over $45,000. We have received an undercover body wire, forward-looking infrared thermal imager and a wireless video kit. The grant was written and the equipment was received with drug investigations in mind but can be used to aid in other criminal investigations as well. With each piece of equipment the department receives, the city is mandated to send an officer, with all expenses paid except salary, to attend extensive training and receive the equipment. The training has been held once in Washington D.C. and twice in St. Louis, Mo.;
• The department received over an additional $2,000 from the Aroostook County Underage Drinking Coalition to purchase fatal vision goggles and videos and two pairs of night vision goggles. The Fatal Vision Goggles distort vision and cause behaviors that are similar to behaviors exhibited by someone under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. They have been used several times by this department to demonstrate firsthand to local high school and college students the effects of alcohol-induced impairment of driving skills, coordination and personal judgment. It is one thing to explain to a person what the effects of even a low amount of alcohol or drugs will do to a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely, but when the goggles are utilized in conjunction with field sobriety tests and supervised operation of a golf cart, it becomes evident to even the most ardent skeptic. It is our hope that educating the public on this issue will serve as a deterrent;
• The department received $8,419 through the Outdoor Heritage Fund to purchase a utility vehicle (ATV), brochures and trail signs. This grant was written with support from the Star City ATV Club and the Maine Warden Service to help reduce complaints that the city was receiving on the ATV recreational trails during the summer months. This partnership and efforts put forth has since drastically reduced the number of ATV complaints the department receives each year. As a result, the department now has several brochures, three trail signs and a Kawasaki Mule ATV to use to combat ATV complaints and other problems encountered along off-road territories. The ATV is also used to respond to medical emergencies that may be off road and hard to reach by conventional vehicle;
• The department received just over $4,810 through the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety to purchase a Hi-Star Traffic Analyzer, software and accessories (two cordless power drills and cement screws). The traffic analyzer is used on various streets and roadways throughout the city to gather data such as the number of vehicles that pass as well as their speed. The collected data is used to assign officers to the problem areas detected. This saves the city money by having officers in certain areas during peak problem times;
• Over the last six years, the department has received over $22,000 in OUI enforcement monies from the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety. The monies received from this grant are used to pay officers’ salaries while they patrol a specific amount of time searching solely for OUI offenders. During this timeframe, officers are enforcing other motor vehicle violations as well. This gives the department an opportunity to have another officer on the road patrolling to keep the city streets safer using grant monies rather than monies from the everyday budget;
• The department received over $6,000 from the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety for seatbelt enforcement over the last three years. This grant is similar to the OUI grant where the monies received are used to pay officers’ salaries while they patrol a specific amount of time searching solely for seatbelt violations. During this timeframe, officers are enforcing other motor vehicle violations as well. This gives the department an opportunity to have another officer on the road patrolling to keep the streets safer while using grant monies rather than monies from the everyday budget; and
• The department received over $17,000 (in conjunction with the Battered Woman’s Project) to bring a national speaker to Aroostook County to speak on two different occasions on domestic violence-related issues. Topics discussed were dominant aggressor theory, stalking and counter-stalking and building a case without a cooperative victim. This is very valuable training for the officers of this department and Aroostook County. The grant also paid each department $100 per officer that attended to help cover the costs associated with sending officers to the training.
As you can see, the Presque Isle Police Department gets a lot of training and equipment through grants that are researched, written and prepared by officers of the department. Without the use of grants, the department would not have the amount of equipment that they have today. There is no way the everyday budget could support such programs and equipment purchases explained above.
Innovation is the word in PIPD. We have one of two bloodhound teams in the state that has solved many crimes that would have previously gone unsolved. Now we have a nationally-certified drug dog team. We have computers in the cars, which add a new dimension to law enforcement with faster information gathering on scene and on the road and lessens radio traffic for the dispatchers to handle.
This example of what the city does for the police is what continues to need to be done by its citizens when it comes to reporting crime, suspicious activity and any crime intelligence, no matter how superficial it may seem. The increase in crime trends is symbiotic between thefts and the drug problem – more so now than ever as the street drugs over the past few years have become more addictive and deadly.
If you are interested in learning what your police department does, join our Citizen’s Police Academy – The PIPD offers a Citizen’s Police Academy once or twice a year. This is an opportunity for the public to come into the police department and meet some of the officers. A large number of the officers volunteer their time to teach a class in their area(s) of expertise. Each class is usually three hours in length. Those who attend are encouraged to ask questions and participate in the discussions. The criteria to attend the CPA are very minimal. You must be a resident of Presque Isle, not have a criminal record and you must be 18 years of age (16 yoa if accompanied by an adult). There are no tests or strict entrance standards to pass to sign up. The last course was one evening a week for 10 weeks, but any new ideas may lengthen the course in the future. Topics covered at the CPA include: domestic violence, evidence collection, use of force, death investigations, drug awareness, criminal and traffic law enforcement, admissions and confessions, and the K-9 programs.
I would like to thank Sergeants Laurie Kelly, Joey Seeley, Eric Erickson, Mark Barnes and Detective Sergeant Wayne Selfridge, Communications Officer Tom King and Administrative Asst. Vickie Kinney for their assistance in preparing these articles.