BREWER, Maine — The Police Department is getting four new vehicles and cameras for its cruisers, and it won’t cost taxpayers a dime, Police Chief Perry Antone told city councilors Tuesday.
The funds that will pay for the new equipment are the result of federal criminal cases that have been successfully prosecuted, and Brewer is getting a percentage of the seized or forfeited items, he explained.
“These funds here are earmarked for law enforcement use,” Antone said. “Currently, there is an estimated $550,000” in Brewer’s forfeiture account.
Some of the assets are real properties, others are cash. Any assets associated with a drug case can be seized, Antone has said. The City Council created its asset forfeiture-seizure reserve account in April 2004, and over the years the funds have been used to purchase new guns, protective vests and other small items.
The department is restricted in how the seized funds may be spent, according to Antone. He said they can be used for training, motor vehicle equipment or safety enhancements.
The new vehicles and the cameras will reduce the fund by about $200,000.
The Police Department plans to use the funds to purchase a command vehicle to replace an old Chevrolet truck now in use. It also will buy a new undercover task force vehicle and two SUVs, one for detectives and the other designed for the canine unit.
The vehicles will cost around $135,000.
The onboard cameras, which cost about $65,000, will be installed on the department’s six cruisers and in the new K-9 officer’s vehicle, Antone said after the council meeting.
The cameras are designed to activate when a cruiser’s lights are turned on. Multiple cameras in the cruiser record a “360-degree” view around the vehicle, he said.
“All [an] officer has to do is wear a body pack and activate the lights,” Antone said.
When officers get back to the police station, the data are downloaded automatically into a permanent database through a wireless records system, the police chief said.
The cameras will be installed later this year, after the K-9 unit vehicle arrives.
As part of the City Council order, three vehicles — a 1998 Ford Taurus, an old Crown Victoria, and the 1985 Chevy truck — will be sold as surplus.
During Tuesday’s meeting, councilors also accepted another $174,632 in forfeited funds.
Police Detective Fred Luce, who joined the department in 1996 and is assigned to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration task force based in Bangor, is responsible for much of the incoming seizure revenue.
Luce recently completed a two-year investigation, dubbed Operation Halloween, that “took him from points in Costa Rica to Alaska and Maine and all points in between,” and led to cocaine and OxyContin charges against more than 30 people, Antone said at the April council meeting.
“He’s like a bloodhound,” Councilor Manley DeBeck said of Luce during Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s amazing in the years that he’s been lent out to the DEA” how many drug dealers he has prosecuted, and how much money has been funneled into the city.
“It is totally amazing,” he said.