York seeks tracking devices in squad cars

By Benjamin Lanka

Police union would rather see GPS in officers' radios

The Fort Wayne Police Department hopes to install tracking devices on most police cruisers to help improve officer safety, but a union president said having the devices on the officers would be even better.

Police Chief Rusty York last month submitted a request to the City Council to spend $501,565 to install tracking units on 318 of the department's 523 vehicles. The council will introduce the bill Tuesday and is expected to discuss it Jan. 15.

York said the service will be provided by Spillman Technologies, the same company that provides data service for officers. It will allow officers, dispatchers and managers to see where the vehicles are located across the city. The chief said this will help in officer safety because it will better locate officers calling for help.

York said it will help dispatchers know which squads to send to different calls based on their location.
Now in our dispatcher operating system, we operate blind,” he said.

Brian Johnson, the president of the local Patrolman's Benevolent Association, which represents about 365 rank-and-file officers, said he was unaware the city was moving forward with equipping the cars with the devices. Although he said he had no objection to the plan, he thought it would improve safety more if Global Positioning System chips were placed in officer radios. That way the department would know where officers are after they left their vehicles.

If we can get GPS put on cell phones, we can get GPS on radios,” he said. We want the officers to have GPS on their hip.”

Johnson said the city's plan wouldn't cover detectives, who don't have a police computer in their vehicles.
York said because of how the tracking technology works, it's much simpler to connect it to the mobile police computers. He said the service will also be able to give officers directions if they are unsure how to get somewhere.

The bulk of the money for the project will come from money the department has seized through drug raids. York said the department discussed this plan last year, and Mayor Tom Henry supports it.
If the council approves the purchase, York said he hoped to have the vehicles outfitted by this summer.