HBPD budgeting for vehicles, personnel, safety gear

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Holmes Beach Police Officer Christine LaBranche works on the beach. Islander Photo: Courtesy HBPD

Island life is not just a day at the beach for the Holmes Beach Police Department.

“We have arrested people here for serious, violent crimes,” Police Chief Bill Tokajer said July 16. “Not everyone that comes out here are the guests we want to welcome. And we must make sure we can handle whatever we have to face.”

As the city fine-tunes its proposals for the 2019-20 budget, The Islander discussed police department expenses with Tokajer.

The code department, which the chief oversees, is undergoing some staffing changes and restructuring.

The department is moving into a suite of offices, now under renovation, at the public works building.

The budget includes an increase of about $97,000 to account for an additional code enforcement clerk.

Tokajer said the new clerk’s responsibilities would include logging calls and complaints, filing reports and scheduling.

“We should be hiring the new clerk soon,” Tokajer said July 16. “This will be a good compliment to the way we are working things out now and will be the face of code when people come in to file complaints and concerns.”

The proposed budget also includes about $30,000 for a new code enforcement vehicle and $10,000 for a golf cart.

Tokajer said the vehicles must be outfitted to withstand the elements.

“We need equipment that will last when exposed to sand and saltwater,” he said.

The proposed police budget also includes leasing eight vehicles for $500,000, which, when paid over four years, amounts to $15,625 per vehicle per year. The vehicles total about $60,000 each and are “fully equipped with lights, cameras, gun safes, window and rear cages, sirens and enhanced safety features,” Tokajer said, including “all the necessary technology to support our demands.”

Additionally, $51,000 for 17 new in-car computers and $30,000 for an information technology contractor are included in the proposed budget.

Tokajer said the computers in patrol cars now are 6 years old and, at the time of purchase, were capable of basic functions, such as taking reports.

“Now we are being dispatched by computers,” he said, adding that the in-car computers are used for record-management and the license plate recognition program. They also are GPS-enabled.

“Information technology from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has come a long way over the years,” the chief said.

He said the new computers are “ruggedized,” meaning they can withstand harsher treatment and conditions.

“These ruggedized computers are made for being in a police car,” he said. “These will hold up better in the heat and humidity and can handle being taken in and out of the car.”

Tokajer also budgeted $4,000 for four bulletproof vests and $21,165 for 17 bulletproof helmets.

He said the vests last five years and he has been rotating and renewing vests since 2013.

“They actually have the expiration date printed inside,” he said, adding that sweat and saltwater break down the vests, which become more “wearer-friendly” as technology improves.

The vests are partially funded by a $1,082 grant from the Bulletproof Vest Partnership.

The bulletproof helmets complete the necessary active-shooter equipment for officers.

“Right now, we have shields and active-shooter vests that go over the exterior vests, and firearms necessary to respond to an active shooter, but do not have helmets for officers in these situations,” he said.

Tokajer said demands on the police department continue to grow as more people visit the island.

“I tell people all the time we have 4,000 of the best residents in the world, but 10,000-15,000 on weekends and 30,000-40,000 people on holidays is a lot on this island,” Tokajer said. “It’s not just the little hidden gem this island once was. We must make sure we are equipped to handle whatever comes our way.”

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