Sheriff and BOC battle over Segways

Jan. 27, 2013 @ 07:45 PM

For High Point University security officer Jermaine Artis, a Segway is a smooth and efficient way to get around campus.
Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes wants to give seven of his school resource officers the same kind of ride on the high school campuses they patrol. But so far, county commissioners don’t agree.
Barnes lost on a 4-5 vote on his request last week to buy the “i2 Patroller” machines for $50,000 using federal forfeiture funds. The battery-powered, two-wheel personal transportation machines have become popular in law enforcement.
“We have looked at these for a long time,” Barnes told commissioners. “They are more efficient than having an officer use a car on a large campus or running  to a nearby middle school. At Ragsdale High, it’s about nine-tenths of a mile to get across campus.”
Officers would use the machines mostly outside at school and possibly at other activities when school is on summer break.
“They would be good to use at night at ball games and other events with a lot of people, like festivals,” Barnes said.
Even though money for the machines would come from cash confiscated from criminal enterprises, several commissioners had their concerns over competitive bidding and whether the vehicles would help make schools safer.
Segway, Inc., the only maker of the machines, offers no discounts, Barnes said.
“I don’t think, we’ll see a better price,” Barnes said. 
Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point, who voted against the request, said he was not “convinced” that the machines would help make schools safer.
Several commissioners also questioned using money from the $600,000 forfeiture fund for the machines. Barnes and commissioners have battled over fund spending for years.  He claims the fund is “for law enforcement” only while commissioners have wanted to guide Barnes’ spending for things other than weapons and equipment. The board could discuss fund spending during a Feb. 7 workshop.
“You can’t use this money to offset local spending,” Barnes said. “It has to be a special project. If you use it to pay an officer, you can do that for only one year.”


History:  The company based in Bedford, N.H.
unveiled the machines in 2001.

Specifications: Top speed of about 12 miles per hour; 260-pound capacity; powered by two lithium-ion batteries; range up to 24 miles on a charge; minimal upkeep.

Campuses: School resource officers would use  seven Segways to patrol these high schools, as well as nearby middle schools: Northeast, Eastern, Southeast, Southern, Ragsdale, Northwest and Northern.

The Purchase Vote: Yes — Democratic Commissioners Ray Trapp and Kay Cashion and Republican Commissioners Linda Shaw and Jeff Phillips. No — Democratic Commissioners Carolyn Coleman, Bruce Davis of High Point, and Republicans Alan Branson, Hank Henning and Bill Bencini of High Point.