Stephenville Police Chief Roy Halsell’s request to use drug forfeiture funds to purchase a $13,000 vehicle for his use met strong opposition late Tuesday.
Stephenville City Council members who attended the panel’s Public Health and Safety Committee meeting said they didn’t think it would be a good idea for Halsell to be provided a car.
City Administrator Mark Kaiser said no city official is currently provided a vehicle.
A summary provided to the council said that Halsell would use the vehicle “in his departmental role.”
The vehicle would “allow him to respond at any time in a vehicle which is equipped with appropriate lights, radio and other necessary equipment,” the summary said. “Also, responding in an official vehicle is preferable to using his privately owned automobile. This vehicle will be used exclusively by the police chief for job-related duties and travel and for response to incidents and crime scenes.”
In addition, Halsell said, the industry standard is for local police chiefs to be provided a vehicle as part of an effort to help chiefs do their “jobs better.”
But Mayor Rusty Jergins, who sat in on the committee Tuesday, led the charge against Halsell’s suggestion.
“I do not support this,” Jergins said. “We do not allow other (city) directors to have it.”
Echoing Jergins’ concern were council members Todd McEvoy, Barry Ratliff and Andrew Johnson.
“This is just out of line in my opinion,” McEvoy said.
“This is just another thing we haven’t planned for,” Johnson said.
Members of the Public Health and Safety Committee voted 3-1 to recommend that the full council deny Halsell’s request for a vehicle.
Halsell made the proposal as part of a plan to spend $53,370 that city police received when the STOP Task Force was reorganized to include only Johnson County and existing forfeiture funds were divided among the members of that task force.
In addition to the vehicle, Halsell recommended that the funds be used to purchase $18,000 of TASERS and related equipment.
Halsell had recommended that 15 TASERS be purchased as “an alternative to deadly force or even hard empty-hand techniques likely to result in injury to the officer and/or the arrested person,” a summary presented to the council said.
“Cities using the TASER have seen a reduction in injuries to officers and persons being arrested,” the summary said. “In some cases that reduction is up to 80 percent.”
In addition to 15 TASERS, Halsell wanted to spend the $18,000 on related holsters, power packs, duty cartridges, and training materials and cartridges, the summary said.
Members of the Public Health and Safety Committee voted 3-1 in favor of backing Halsell’s recommendation, but not before whittling it down to five TASERS.
Council member Cyndi Godwin expressed concern about the TASERS and said she didn’t want city police to become “TASER happy like some of them do in Fort Worth.”
The committee deadlocked 2-2 and sent to the full council, without recommendation, Halsell’s proposal to spend $6,500 of drug forfeiture funds on “Surfire Lights” for pistols.
Surfire Lights are “flashlights that can be mounted to pistols for use in low-light situations when officers need to keep one hand free, such as building searches and felony arrests,” the summary to the council said.
The committee also endorsed Halsell’s recommendations to use the drug forfeiture funds to:
Spend nearly $4,000 to purchase AR-15 rifles, Spend $3,400 on a fax machine/copier/printer, Spend $5,000 on night-vision goggles, and Spend $1,400 on “simunition rifles.”
DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.