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Prescott police research new body cameras, focus on new hires

The city of Prescott held its first Common Council meeting of 2018 on Jan. 8. Interim Police Chief Robert Funk reported to the board on what is going on with the police department.

Funk said they are finishing up the process of hiring two new full-time police officers and hope to have them in place by the beginning of February.

In other police news, Funk said the number of active drug cases in Prescott increased 400 percent from 2012 to 2017.

"All drug cases require time to process after the police contact with the suspect," Funk said. "There is evidence testing, storage, report writing, etc. Drug cases often times lead to further drug cases and may involve drafting of search warrants and service of those warrants."

Funk also described the body cameras they have as ineffective. They are small and have small buttons. In order for an officer to engage the body camera they have to look down to press the button and Funk said this is not a safe practice.

"There are times when an officer arrives on scene and needs to engage with the call for service and cannot afford to look down to engage his camera," Funk said. "This was a safety hazard."

Funk said they are looking to implement use of new body cameras in 2018. They are looking at the Axon 2 Body camera.

"The Axon 2 Body camera allows for a Gross body motion engagement," Funk said. "It is easy to turn on simply by tapping the large button on the front of the unit."

In addition to looking at new body cameras, Funk said they will also be reviewing use of force policies.

Council member Maureen Otwell asked if there would be public input about these two items. Funk said right now they are just in the beginning stages of research.

The council also approved a $15,000 contract to Cedar Corporation for professional design services for the cold storage building that is to be built on land next to the current public works shop at 1109 Jefferson St.. This contract is for Cedar to work on design, bidding and contract administration.

"The cold storage building is a building which is going to be used to store additional vehicles and equipment," said City Administrator Jayne Brand. "The estimated cost for the building is $197,000 which has been included in the 2018 budget."

Lakela complaint

Prescott resident Jeffery Lakela read a letter at the meeting addressing his concerns about the Prescott Police Department. In his letter Lakela said his problems with Prescott police started Nov. 2, 2016, when "I was gang-style assaulted and taken hostage by law enforcement just outside of the Prescott Holiday Store."

The letter stated that on Oct. 16, 2017, Lakela was served with a "phony Citation for Harassment" after he had tried to speak with and gather information from Holiday store employees from the incident the previous year. The letter stated "The Citation for Harassment was based on FALSE written statements, made both verbally and in writing, by the three Holiday Station Store employees that I had interviewed."

Lakela said in his letter it is up to the council to do something about the Prescott Police Department and "Without corrective action, this police department will continue to be costly in terms of law suits, and the people of Prescott will not feel any safer or be any safer."

"A citation for harassment was issued to Mr. Lakela and the Civil forfeiture case is pending before the court," Funk said.

Other business

• The board approved the disallowance of claims filed by Ryan M. Most and Bryan W. Massman.

• The council accepted the resignation of Alderperson John Hoschette. In a letter Hoschette sent to Brand and Mayor David Hovel, he said he wanted to have more time to enjoy his retirement.

• The council appointed Robert Daugherty to replace Hoschette.