The New Castle County Department of Public Safety Police Division has been dealing with rising bullet costs and has also been anticipating which vehicle would replace the iconic Ford Crown Victoria as the department's police interceptor, among other budgetary items.
NCCo Police Chief E.M. Setting presented a proposed budget of $57 million for 2014, a modest 2.71 percent increase, at the New Castle County Council's budget hearing held earlier this week.
The biggest increase among the line items was the 31.1 percent increase for materials and supplies, NCCo Police Chief E.M. Setting said. This was simply because of the increase in costs for bullets due to the laws of supply and demand, he said. Namely, bullets were flying on the shelf everywhere – a result of public response to gun control measures nationwide – and police had felt the effects of the laws of supply and demand, Setting said.
"We are seeing dramatic increases in the price of bullets," he said. "That cost is being driven by society stockpiling bullets. We're not stockpiling; we're using the same exact amount of bullets required by COPT (Council on Police Training). You can't get much of anything."
Councilman George Smiley (D-New Castle), Finance Committee chairman, said a woman recently complained to him that she could not find "22 shorts" – a variety of .22 caliber bullets.
"I started to look at her and didn't think she took size 22 but I kept my mouth shut," he said. "That time I kept my mouth shut."
Councilman William Powers (D-Townsend) said people were trying to stockpile bullets, but the feds, namely the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – were buying up bullets and making it harder to find ammunition. As a result, .22 longs and .22 shorts were hard to find, Powers said.
"You can't find them anywhere," he said. "As soon as they come in they're gone."
Personnel costs would comprise the vast majority of the budget, as with every other county budget. But, from a percentage standpoint, salaries and wages would only increase 1.19 percent and employee benefits would increase 7.51 percent, Setting said. Personnel costs comprise 82.63 percent of spending within the Division of Police, Crossing Guards and Public Safety Administration.
Discussion then turned to replacing aging police interceptors in the fleet when Councilman John Cartier (D-Holly Oak) asked Setting if he had selected a new police car for the department. Setting expressed his desire to see the department transition to the Chevrolet Tahoe because of its V8 engine power and its relatively improved fuel performance compared to the traditional Ford Crown Victoria police interceptor.
"The car that Ford is putting out now is a fine vehicle in regards to its speed, power and all that fun stuff in the all-wheel drive Taurus," Setting said. "But I can't put an officer your size in that car. I mean, you'd have to fold him in half like luggage. We can't put our equipment in the trunk. And, not to mention, the all the all-wheel drive wreaks havoc on the transmission."
Page 2 of 2 - Councilman Bill Bell (D-Middletown) agreed that it was impractical to fit good sized officers in some of the newer police interceptors, such as the Chevrolet Caprice.
Plus, the other SUV available, the Ford Explorer did not perform well in high speed situations given the limited power of its V6 engine, Setting said.
"I just want the Tahoe," he said.
But, ultimately, Setting said he would have to go out to bid, per law.
The NCCo Department of Public Safety Division of Police, Crossing Guards and Administration comprised the biggest piece of the budget presented to the Finance Committee.
New Castle County's entire Department of Public Safety budget for the 2014 fiscal year would increase spending 4.78 percent compared to 2013to $84.7 million and keep the number of positions funded at 621 for the second straight year, NCCo Public Safety Director Joseph Bryant said.
New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon has proposed an overall operating budget of $250.9 million 2014 fiscal year budget that would increase spending by 3.24 percent. The 2014 budget begins on July 1, 2013.