TUSTIN : New Communication Unit OKd for Police

The City Council has approved spending more than $1.1 million for a new, computerized communications system at the Police Department.

An additional $155,000 will be spent to hire three police officers who will staff the new communications system once it is set up, officials said.

Council members unanimously approved the two proposals last week in what they said was part of the effort to bring local policing into the 21st Century.

Money for the communications equipment will come from cash and properties seized in drug-related cases. The salaries for the three new officers will come from Proposition 172 money, the half-cent sales tax voters approved last year for public safety services.

Police Chief W. Douglas Franks said the department's current equipment--now more than 20 years old--often breaks down and no longer meets the needs of a growing community.

"During the last four years, (the equipment) has been the subject of a continual Band-Aid approach in order to keep it working adequately," Franks told the council.

He said that the new equipment will be bought from Motorola, the same company that won a contract to provide communication equipment for a countywide network scheduled to go into operation within the next few years.

With the new communications system, Franks said, police officers can dictate reports directly to a computer that has word-processing capabilities, instead of the current, time-consuming practice of dictating to a cassette recorder and having a typist transcribe it.

He said the city will also be able to participate in Santa Ana's computerized system of filing and retrieving mug shots to help police officers gain access to information about cases they are investigating.

The communications center will have computers to help dispatchers control telephones, radios and other electronic equipment in their contact with police officers in the field, Franks said. It should take about two years to put the system in place, he said.

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