While dashboard cameras, radar guns, stun guns and batons may be viewed as standard policing equipment, not all law enforcement personnel patrolling Baton Rouge deploy those tools — and that makes a big difference in what it costs to equip new patrol officers.
Such costs are a consideration as local law enforcement agencies decide whether they can afford to hire more officers.
In 2012, Baton Rouge Police spent $6,586 per new officer for uniforms and equipment, slightly less than the $7,648 per trooper spent by Louisiana State Police and the $10,080 per deputy by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. These costs do not reflect the costs of patrol cars.
Before they can be equipped, the new officers must complete training.
The 20-week Baton Rouge Police academy costs about $110,000 per cadet, or about $2.6 million per academy, department spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said.
State Police shells out about $155,000 to train an individual trooper in classes that range in size from 30 to 50, although the agency has not conducted an academy in four years because of state budget constraints, spokesman Capt. Doug Cain said.
Both McKneely and Cain said the costs include the equipment the officers are issued once they compete their training.
The Sheriff’s Office appears to spend a fraction of what city and state police pay for their academies. The cost to train a deputy at the sheriff’s 12-week regional training academy, where authorities from several agencies across the state train alongside new deputies, is between $750 to $850 per person, spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said. Hicks said the cost is so low because the instructors are in-house, so the expense is strictly for supplies at the academy. Also, this cost does not include the equipment for the new deputies.
Only the Baton Rouge Police Department issues new equipment to its officers upon completion of the basic training academy.
Both the Sheriff’s Office and State Police issue new uniforms, but some of the equipment may be used, so the numbers shown above reflect the cost only if the equipment purchased were new.
City officers are not given batons and only 75 percent of its uniform patrol officers carry stun guns. Those two items are standard for sheriff’s deputies and state troopers.
Baton Rouge police spokesman Lt. Don Kelly said the department would like to equip every officer with a stun gun, but it’s too expensive at $1,400 per unit, up $300 from the cost of the older units in the department’s stock.
The Sheriff’s Office pays $815 for each stun gun and State Police pays $1,115 per stun gun, but state police’s cost includes the cartridge holder, two training cartridges and two live cartridges.
Kelly said improvements in technology are making the baton obsolete.
“I think Tasers and pepper spray, generally speaking, are just more effective intermediate weapons to use than batons are, so a lot of officers just don’t carry them or want to use them,” he said.
Nevertheless, trainees do receive baton training at the academy, Kelly said.
Some officers may desire additional equipment and some of them might visit Baton Rouge Police Supply near the Cortana Mall.
Store owner Don Hogan, who identified himself as a police officer but would not identify which agency he worked for, said officers visit his store for items like clipboards, belts, ticket book holders, off-duty holsters and footwear.
And while civilians are welcome in the store, they are limited in what items they can purchase.
“We don’t sell anything that can impersonate a police officer to anybody whatsoever unless they are a commissioned police officer,” Hogan said.
Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman, said state troopers are also allowed to deviate from the list of standard equipment, but the item they want to buy must be on an approved list and troopers pay for the equipment out of their own pockets. Fewer than 5 percent of state troopers use different equipment than what is issued, he said.
“Just because you want to carry some nifty little thing, you can’t just add that to your gun belt. It has to be something that’s approved,” Cain said.
Cain, Hicks and McKneely all said officers who buy additional equipment beyond what is provided by their respective agency are not reimbursed.
For the patrol units, the fully equipped Dodge Chargers the Baton Rouge Police Department makes standard for its officers cost $39,500 per car, which includes the lights, sirens and decals. The base cost is $22,600.
Kelly said the department purchases new patrol units regularly because of the day-to-day strain placed on them, but rookies do not receive the bright, shiny new Chargers when they graduate from the academy.
“They’re usually getting one that is getting close to retirement. The new guys get the older, cheaper, crappier stuff,” Kelly said.
Both the Sheriff’s Office and state troopers list their base unit as the Chevy Tahoe, but with a significant cost difference.
The Sheriff’s Office pays $41,000 for its fully decked-out Tahoes, while State Police pays $48,300 for its equipped units.
The base costs are $23,800 and $25,800 respectively.
State Police equips its Tahoes with a laptop computer, in-car camera, in-car radar and a mobile radio, while not all Sheriff’s Office units have in-car cameras or radars, and Baton Rouge police provide in-car radar only in specialized units.
Hicks said deputies choose to carry either a radar gun or an in-car radar and although the sheriff does believe in the value of dashboard cameras, their cost is the main reason why not all patrol units carry them. She said the Sheriff’s Office is looking at using grant money to purchase additional cameras.
State Police and city police both pay more than $5,000 per camera, while the Sheriff’s Office pays $4,500 for its cameras.
Baton Rouge police officers are required to be certified in the use of radar, which is why not all patrol officers have them. Each district carries a surplus of radar guns and if an officer is certified in radar use, that officer may check out a radar, but they do not carry them at all times.
There is no national or international uniform policy or equipment checklist that each agency must follow, Kelly said.
“Everybody is going to put a patrol officer out there based on what their needs are,” Kelly said. “There may be some small Mayberry-type departments out there that don’t carry anything but a gun and handcuffs.
“What an officer in a high-crime, urban large metropolitan is going to carry is probably very different that what an officer in a very rural quiet area where the worst thing that ever happens is a barking dog,” Kelly added. “A lot of it comes down to what you can afford and the size of your department.”