In a city the size of Wilton Manors, with limitations on funding for lofty ideas, the watchdog function of our City Commission to question certain projects is ever more important.
Unfortunately our City Commission missed an opportunity this week to exercise this important function of our local government.
The Wilton Manors Police Department requested City Commission approval for the use of funding from the State Forfeiture Fund to purchase what is called Red Dot technology for patrol firearms. This technology retrofits firearms with the ability to project a red dot to improve the accuracy, safety and efficiency when a patrol officer needs to discharge their firearm in the line of duty.
On the surface such technology sounds wonderful and useful. In reality here in Wilton Manors, some might think this is an unnecessary expense, especially when other much-needed crime prevention technology and equipment are monetarily out of reach for our small city.
Use of State Forfeiture Funds is governed by state statute, which specifically states funds be utilized for crime prevention, safe neighborhoods, drug abuse education and drug prevention programs.
One would need to stretch the scope of this program to include Red Dot technology for firearms, along with the cost of many hours of specific training of personnel, as a needed program that represents the best usage of such funding.
Many in our community affected by the increase in criminal activity can rest easier tonight knowing that our police patrols will now be equipped with Red Dot technology for firearms rarely discharged in the line of duty.
Some might argue that technology such as license plate readers might be a more effective and needed technology for our local police department. Criminals entering our city in a stolen vehicle pose a real threat to our residents and to public safety. Many other crime prevention methods could also have been paid for utilizing this funding source. Unfortunately limited resources will now go to the purchase of Red Dot technology for patrol firearms.
I welcome the difference of opinions and the factual debate when arguing the pros and cons of certain projects before our City Commission.
However, I was somewhat put off by the disingenuous response by police hierarchy in a response to the City Commission inquiry on the need for such Red Dot technology.
The response cited the recent killing of the FBI agents in the City of Sunrise as a need for any technology that brings our uniformed officers home safely to their families at night.
The use of Red Dot technology would have done nothing to save the lives of those FBI agents. Perhaps laws that prevent criminals from purchasing armor-piercing bullets and having stricter gun purchasing laws might have made a difference, but Red Dot-equipped firearms would not.
There is no doubt that such technology benefits specific areas of law enforcement. Swat teams, sharpshooters, specially trained forces are definite areas where such technology is needed and justified. Our city relies on those services from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office to my knowledge.
The need to equip all our patrol officers with such technology just does not carry any merit, especially when you look at what such a program achieves.
Compare this to the purchase of much-needed crime prevention technology which has measured success rates in the reduction of criminal activity within a city’s boundaries along with the increased apprehension of criminals looking to target residents, their homes and their vehicles.
To me the choice is clear.
In a perfect world, where the money is no object, and we can all have everything we want — then perhaps we might be able to justify the cost and required training hours needed for Red Dot technology here in our small city. Unfortunately we do not live in such a world and tough decisions have to make every day on how best to use limited resources. This week, in my opinion, our City Commission failed to make those tough choices.
Being the eternal optimist that I am, I await promises from police brass that they have a plan for the purchase of much demanded and needed crime prevention technology such as the license plate scanners. Hopefully we will see them quicker than other long-promised items that keep getting pushed back year after year due to budgetary restraints.
Sometimes you have to accept the decisions of others who might not share the same point of view. Hopefully our city leaders have made the right choice and my doubts tonight are overblown. The ability to have a difference of opinion, to be able to question, to express one’s doubts and beliefs are all part of what makes life in Wilton Manors just better here.
Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.