Grant will provide for vests, weapons

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005

The Brookhaven Police Department and Lincoln County Sheriff’sDepartment have received more than $25,000 from the Department ofJustice.

The local funds are part of more than $423,000 awarded from the2005 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program and the2005 Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program covering sevengrants.

“These grants provide federal funding for local law enforcementand criminal justice needs which were already on a tight budgeteven before Hurricane Katrina,” Third District U.S. Rep. ChipPickering said in announcing the grants. “Local police departmentsand courts face the front line of protecting citizens and thesegrants will assist them in their duties.”

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Other grant recipients include Ridgeland, Covington County,Pearl, Adams County and the Sixth Judicial Circuit Adult DrugCourt, which received the lion’s share of funding at nearly$336,000.

The Brookhaven Police Department received $14,760 toward thepurchase of new sidearms, bullet-proof vests and other protectiveequipment while the sheriff’s department received $11,111 towardtraining materials and equipment for it and the Lincoln County LawEnforcement Training Academy.

“Unfortunately, that alone won’t buy very many vests,” Chief PapHenderson said.

The chief said he is considering two plans to make the most ofthe grant. Which plan he decides on will depend on whether or notthe department receives another larger grant. The applicationdeadline for that grant was Thursday, and Henderson hoped to hearback soon on whether the department would receive a portion of the$10,000,000 available through that program.

Assuming the department is not accepted in that program, the$14,760 from the Justice Department grant would be divided amongreplacing worn out bullet-proof vests and purchasing newsidearms.

Should the department be accepted, Henderson said, that portionwould go to bullet-proof vests while the Justice Department grantwould be used to purchase the sidearms.

“We’re not asking for anything we don’t need,” Henderson said.”My newer officers, those who have been hired in the past year, arewearing the new vests. My older officers, well, many of them arewearing the vests they were issued when they started.”

Either way, he said, new sidearms are an important part of thedepartment’s future plans.

“We issue .357 magnums. That’s how outdated we are,” Hendersonsaid. “I’m trying to bring us up to date with semiautomatics.”

A departmental policy to issue semiautomatics would also entailreplacing equipment such as belts and holsters, the chief said. Thetotal cost of updating the department’s weapons would beapproximately $1,000 per officer.

Many officers have purchased their own weapons and do not carrythe department-issued revolver, Henderson said, because they want asemiautomatic so they are not outgunned in the event of analtercation.

This poses a tactical and logistical problem, he said. Withdifferent weapons, officers cannot share ammunition, and thedepartment must buy several types of ammunition to issue toofficers for training purposes.

“I want one weapon of choice,” Henderson said. “A weapon theentire staff of the Brookhaven Police Department will carry.”

Officers, detectives and Henderson have discussed the weaponsissue and all agree, he said, indicating the officers would notprotest hanging up their personal weapons if the department wouldissue them ones of comparable technology.

“That was understood when they bought their weapons,” the chiefsaid.

The Justice Department grant may be the one that helps thembegin the conversion process, Henderson said.