Grand Island's part-time police officers want to enter the computer age but are encountering a roadblock.
Although The town has purchased a computer for one of its patrol cars, officers can't tap into state motor vehicle, outstanding warrant and other records that would help local officers do their jobs safely and more efficiently.
Councilman James R. Sharpe says Erie County Central Police Services has denied the town access to these records through its computer system because the town does not have a police department or a full-time police officer, or a police administrator who would be responsible to supervise the program.
The computer was purchased with $4,000 in state funding obtained through Assemblyman Sam Hoyt.
"They are concerned because this information can be highly sensitive and has to be handled correctly. They are afraid the information could be used indiscriminately or accessed without cause," Sharpe said. Sharpe said that although the town does not have a police department or full-time officers, it hires people who work as full-time officers with other police departments and are certified to use the computers.
He said Ronald McNamee and Kenneth Lewis, officers with the State Park Police, serve as part-time Grand Island officers.
Sharpe said he will try to persuade Erie County to alter its position and also is looking into other methods of letting Grand Island's part-timers tap into the state information network.
McNamee said the patrol-car computer is important because it allows immediate access to information.
"If we see a suspicious vehicle, we can tell, for example, whether a car belongs in an area or whether it might be from out of town," he said. "It might be in an area where there have been a lot of burglaries."
License-plate checks can tell officers if the vehicle was stolen, or if there is an outstanding arrest warrant on the owner, he said.