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Jonesboro police chief pleased to see more money in 2020 budget

Updated: Dec. 19, 2019 at 9:44 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The Jonesboro City Council has approved the city’s 2020 budget, which includes an increase of more than 7% for the police department.

In an exclusive interview with Region 8 News, Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott spoke about how the department plans to use the money and his priorities in the coming year.

“We did have a big increase in our budget,” Elliott said. “It’s primarily due to the cost of the fleet camera system that is compatible with our body camera system.”

With that being said, a large area of focus for 2020 is equipping 82 patrol vehicles with the fleet camera system.

“The body cam and the car cam sync together and it is less equipment that the officer has to have inside of the car,” Elliott said.

Once that is done, the entire fleet will be covered.

It will also involve adding additional computer software.

What the budget does not allow for are any new positions.

“I will say in the past year, we did get two officers on the Cops for Hire grant through the Department of Justice,” Elliott said.

While he would like to add 30 more officers, Elliott is having a hard time filling the positions they currently have now.

Right now, the department is short four officers. Two additional resignations were turned in this past week as officers leave for other departments. On top of that, seven officers are looking to retire in 2020.

“For somebody to come and do this kind of job, it is a person that is willing to make these sacrifices, willing to put their life on the line, willing to sacrifice time with their family and friends for $34,000 a year...knowing that they can go elsewhere in the city and get a job that pays more and not near as stressful,” Elliott said.

He said the city only has so much money to work with. While he is pleased to have an increase in funding this year, he still believes that a sales tax increase will eventually be necessary to maintain the standards of his department, make vital upgrades, and provide a better salary to be able to recruit competitively.

“With the salary the way it is currently, it’s kind of hard to attract certified officers from other departments when you have smaller departments than us making more money,” Elliott said. “The city has invested a lot of money in officers and their training and of course, the time and experience they gain from being here. When we lose them to another agency, it’s a huge loss.”

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