Every patrol officer in Springfield wears a body-worn camera on the front of his/her uniform. Camera usage began at the start of 2021. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Greene County’s two largest law enforcement groups will get almost $200,000 worth of gear, and they’ll get it by working together.

The Springfield Police Department and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office applied for $192,496 in funding through the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) is the largest funding program in the nation that sends federal tax dollars to state and local law enforcement groups.

Springfield police plan to use some of the money to buy body-worn cameras for patrol officers, and a drone for officers enforcing traffic laws — as well as two replacement police dogs for its five-canine crew.

The Springfield City Council took up a bill for the JAG grant on Oct. 17, and will consider it for final passage and adoption in November. At the same time, the Greene County Commission must agree to accept the funding and enter into the agreement with the Springfield Police Department.

Springfield Police Maj. Tad Peters explained the grant to the City Council on Oct. 17.

“We receive a designated amount that is determined by a formula by the Department of Justice, and we have an ongoing agreement with Greene County where we split the funds from this grant,” Peters said.

Why care?

Body-worn cameras are gaining popularity across the United States as impartial third-party observers designed to hold police officers accountable to the communities and the people they serve. They also cost money to buy and operate, to the tune of $612,376 in Springfield sales tax revenue up front plus the costs of two full-time employee salaries and counting to maintain footage in an index.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office had to apply for funding with the Springfield police because of a qualifying condition called “disparate status.”

The partnership to get funding is born from the FBI’s database from tracking crime, or uniform crime reporting. Springfield police officers investigate a statistically higher volume of crimes and make more arrests in any given year, but the sheriff and deputies run the county jail, and Greene County residents elect a prosecuting attorney to see cases through the criminal justice system.

“A disparate allocation exists between the City and Greene County, with the county bearing more than 50 percent of the costs of prosecution and incarceration that arise from the reported crimes against persons,” an explanation attached to the Springfield City Council bill reads. “Jurisdictions identified as disparate must submit a joint application in order to be awarded any funds.”

Per the terms of the agreement, Springfield and Greene County will divide the funds with approximately 60 percent going to the city and 40 percent going to the county. Springfield police will receive $115,497.60, and the Greene County will receive $76,998.40. 

To track the spending, the city of Springfield will establish an account for the JAG funds and reimburse Greene County for its share.

“We have identified several needs for this year to spend this money on,” Peters said.

The Springfield Police Department plans to use the funds to purchase software for the forensic analysis of cellular phones, body worn cameras for police officers, a traffic drone, and two trained police dogs. The Springfield Police Department intends to buy body cameras for its patrol lieutenants, who were not originally outfitted with cameras when the Springfield Police Department rolled out cameras in 2021.

In 2020, the Springfield Police Department used $612,376 from the city’s 1/4-cent capital improvement sales tax Minor Neighborhood Improvements Fund to purchase 240 body-worn cameras. That’s an average cost of about $2,557 per camera with accessories. In January 2021, Springfield Police Officers began to take training on body cameras. By the end of the month, each officer in Springfield was patrolling while wearing and using a camera. 

According to its 2021 report, the Springfield Police Department finished the past year with five canines and five canine handlers. The grants funds can be used to replace two dogs set to retire, which will keep a total of five dogs in the police department. The JAG funding will help buy two replacement dogs. According to the yearly report, Springfield police deployed dogs more than 400 times in 2021. Dogs found drugs 44 times, persons 18 times, and were used for persons who had barricaded themselves away from police 16 times.

According to the grant documentation, Greene County will use its share of the funds to purchase communications earpieces, equipment carriers, shotgun racks and a gun safe. 

The Edward Byrne JAG funding program is named for New York City Police Officer Eddie Byrne, who was 22 years old when he was killed on duty in 1988. Byrne was protecting a witness in a case involving organized drug dealing when he was ambushed and shot by street gang members.

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger