Archived Story

Tribe awarded $969K grant

Published 6:11pm Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department announced late last week that the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians was awarded a more than $969,000 grant to improve record management and communication systems between tribal police, the sheriff’s department and Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office.

The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant, totaling $969,308, serves as a joint venture between the sheriff’s department, Cass and Van Buren counties, the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department and the Pokagon Band’s Tribal Police, headed by Capt. Chris VanCompernolle. The departments have worked together in the past, but have often encountered communication differences when trying to maintain record systems and 911 equipment and software. Through the grant, most of the communication between the departments will receive a full upgrade.

“We’re obviously very excited to have this opportunity,” VanCompernolle said Wednesday. “This will be a tremendous upgrade in Cass County, Van Buren County and throughout the individual departments.”

Cass County Undersheriff Rick Behnke agreed, stating the collaboration between the departments will now be stronger.

“We already worked together for a number of years,” Behnke said. “This gives us the opportunity to serve the community better with one another.”

Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood said the “process will now be smoother, more seamless” when the counties and the tribe communicate.

VanCompernolle said some physical upgrades to the communications systems includes GPS locators in patrol cars, new jail records management systems and new hardware and software that would allow officers to access records from their patrol cars.

“This will also benefit the first response team, fire departments, emergency personnel,” VanCompernolle said. “It will improve on the safety in both counties.”

Behnke said the upgrades will also streamline the processes between one department and another “so we don’t have to jump through so many hoops.”

The next step, according to Behnke, is to begin searching for bids from companies that can complete the improvements.

“We’ll try to find which companies can solve our issues the best,” Behnke said. “We certainly appreciate the opportunity to do this with the tribe and Van Buren County.”

VanCompenolle agreed.

“It’s a wonderful thing for our tribal nation and our partners,” he said.

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