Federal Money May Pay For Law Enforcement Computers

Deputies assigned to Harrison County's motor carrier unit use a computer to do background checks on the truck drivers they inspect. If a new federal grant gets President Bush's signature, every police car in the three coast counties will have computers on board. And they'll have access to station house computers.

Sheriff George Payne said computers would make all coast police officers "more effective, more efficient. It's going to make us combat crime a lot easier."

Right now, most of the computers found in squad cars let officers fill out reports. But they don't do much else. The new computers would tell officers about crimes in progress, not only in their cities, but in the surrounding communities.

John Noble is one of the deputies who already has a computer in his car. He likes the new concept because, "As you're riding down the road, you'll be able to have that information immediately, and hopefully be able to apprehend somebody who is involved in a crime."

So far, the high tech computer grant has only made it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. But Sen. Thad Cochran is confident the $8.5 million grant will be approved. That's why he invited law enforcement leaders to a news conference about the computers. "Working together," Sen. Cochran said, "they can do a better job to help combat crime and restore peace and tranquility to our communities here on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi."

Sheriff Payne then said, "What this is going to do is connect every policeman and sheriff's deputy from Hancock County to Jackson County."

If Congress and the President okay the computer funding, coast police will apply for the grant late this fall.

If the Cops Tech Initiative works in South Mississippi, it will be expanded to include police departments in Mobile and Slidell.