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Billings City Council to spend $1 million in CARES Act money for new police equipment

Posted at 11:30 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 11:23:03-05

BILLINGS — At a Monday work session, the Billings City Council voted unanimously to approve $1.1 million of federal coronavirus relief (CARES Act) money for new equipment for the police department.

The budget amendment will be brought back to another meeting for public comment and another vote before the new equipment is incorporated into the 2021 budget.

Billings City Administrator Chris Kukulski said that the money came from the city's portion of about $19 million in CARES Act dollars that were distributed by the state.

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John presented the list, which continued a discussion on a crime update from a Nov. 16 Council meeting. The Council requested St. John bring back a list of resources that could address crime issues in the community.

“The disclaimer that I want to say upfront is that if you really want to make a difference in the problematic areas that we’re going to talk about, specifically violent crime, our downtown problems, the traffic enforcement, we need to add personnel. That’s the resource that makes the difference, we can show that empirically and statistically," St. John said.

The list doesn't contain any additional personnel or officers because the money is one-time-only and the officer's pay couldn't be sustained into future years, St. John said.

St. John created the list of equipment with a goal to improve the city in four areas: violent crime reduction, increased downtown safety, improved traffic safety and investments in mental health.

The list includes things like two speed trailers to work traffic for $16,000, additional money put toward body cameras at $50,000 and a new three-dimensional forensic scanner for mapping crime scenes at $49,000.

Before the vote, Council members increased the amount of money spent on additional overtime, increasing the proposed $100,000 to $300,000.

To view the full list of equipment proposed to be purchased, view the City Council agenda item by clicking here.

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