Natchez police chief: Department needs radios, cars

Published 12:17 am Monday, October 16, 2017


NATCHEZ — Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong’s desire to better equip his department continued last week when he made a pitch to city officials for both new police radios and vehicles.

Armstrong presented aldermen a request to purchase 75 Motorola radios as part of the Mississippi Wireless Information Network (MSWIN). He equated the radios to a sidearm in terms of importance.

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“Your sidearm must work 100 percent of the time if in fact you need to use it,” Armstrong said. “The radio system is no different. When a law enforcement officer or a first responder need to communicate, then the radio system must work 100 percent of the time, otherwise it could lead to some serious consequences.”

The MSWIN system is state-run and aims to provide reliable communications even under extreme conditions such as natural disasters.

Armstrong’s presentation contained figures for either new or used radios: new radios would cost approximately $144,000 while the same number of used, refurbished radios would cost approximately $116,000.

Currently, Armstrong said, police are unable to communicate with other agencies using the current radios, including the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. The MSWIN radios would allow NPD to reach other law enforcement agencies across the state when collaborating on cases, Armstrong said.

The radios currently in use, purchased in 2003, are wearing out and require costly repairs, Armstrong said.

Armstrong foresees a time when the current communications system may stop working altogether, but the chief said even today the system poses problems for officers.

“Currently, there are places in the City of Natchez that we can’t communicate back to 911,” Armstrong said.

Though Armstrong said he was not necessarily suggesting immediate action by the board, he said the situation is something to consider sooner rather than later.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard agreed that radios are essential for police officers and said the new radios would be a wiser purchase than the used ones, based on the figures supplied by Armstrong.

“I think the difference between the cost of new radio equipment and used equipment is not enough, in my opinion, to not go with the new equipment,” Dillard said.

Armstrong also discussed acquiring new patrol vehicles to replace some of the department’s current models that are on their last legs.

“As I’ve stated before this board, we are now using patrol cars with 150,000 and as much as 170,000 miles as a police car, which is used in emergency situations,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said Natchez has an opportunity to purchase vehicles from Jefferson City, Mo., which Armstrong said is selling relatively new vehicles with less than 55,000 miles of use.

In an attempt to cut down on the city’s budget, aldermen last month decided to approve four new vehicles for the police department, though Armstrong had originally requested 10 vehicles.

Armstrong Tuesday said the city could instead purchase approximately seven used vehicles for the price of four new units.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis moved the request be handed over to the police committee, headed by Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier, who seconded the motion.

The aldermen approved that motion unanimously, though Ward 5 Alderman Benjamin Davis was not present.