Police Chief Jason Jones

Pierre Police Department Chief Jason Jones speaks to the city commission on Tuesday.

The Pierre City Commission unanimously approved the budgeted purchase of two new police vehicles and one Animal Control pickup vehicle at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Our Animal Control vehicle is coming up on seven years old and lots of activity goes through the back of that pickup,” Pierre Police Chief Jason Jones told the commission Tuesday.

The new police vehicles are scheduled to be 2022 Dodge Durangos — valued at $35,375 each with add-ons — and the animal control vehicle is scheduled to be a 2022 Dodge Ram 1500 — valued at $34,465 with add-ons. For the Durangos, those add-ons include a roof-mounted 6-inch spotlight and a rear vinyl seat. Add-ons for the Ram, a pickup truck, include a Class IV receiver hitch and a spray-on bedliner.

Pierre Police Capt. Bryan Walz said the purchase represents a simple replacement of older vehicles, which will be handed down to the Pierre Police Department’s school resource officers, allowing the current SRO vehicles to be sold at state auction.

“What we do is we have a planned vehicle replacement, so each vehicle rotates out of the fleet after so many years or so many miles,” Walz said. “This helps to save on any repair costs associated with high-mileage vehicles or anything like that. So what generally happens is we’ll purchase two new vehicles and then we’ll slide a couple of vehicles down to our school resource officers.”

The competitive state bid for the Durangos and Ram was through Wegner Auto in Pierre, according to the documents presented to the city commission on Tuesday.

Walz made clear that the purchase does is not a preclusion to an expansion in the department’s ranks, adding that the department has been short on officers in recent years. Instead, he said, the department is looking to fill current openings without adding new spots for officers.

“We’ve been short officers pretty consistently for the past couple years,” Walz said. “It’s a national trend. So we’re not looking to add any more officers, we’re just looking to get... full-staffed. That takes a while to hire an officer and train an officer and get them through our field training and evaluation program.”

Walz said the department is having the same problems attracting job applications as the rest of central South Dakota, currently.

Hughes County Sheriff Patrick Callahan, a former Pierre police officer himself, told the Capital Journal in late July that the Hughes County Jail, which contracts with 14 counties, is understaffed “anywhere from 30 to 40 percent depending on the day.”

Michael Woodel | 605-224-7301 ext. 131

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