ROCKINGHAM — The city council on Tuesday voted to allow Police Chief Billy Kelly to apply for a grant of $43,000 — $23,000 more than the usual grant — from the Governor’s Highway Safety Commission, which will go towards a new driving simulation program that will assist in educating drivers on the dangers of drunk driving.
In the past, the Rockingham Police Department has had trainees drive a golf cart through a cone course while wearing goggles that are supposed to disorient them in a way that is similar to the effects of alcohol. The sobering experience of hitting cones they can hardly see has been an effective deterrent, Kelly said, but the simulation has the potential to be more educational without the risk of losing control of an actual vehicle.
“The golf cart worked well but there was always the chance with the goggles that someone could run off course,” Kelly said Tuesday.
The program can also be used for student drivers as well as in the training of police officers.
Kelly applies for a $20,000 grant from the Commission each year to pay for the department’s equipment needs, such as new bullet-proof vests which have to be replaced every five years. This year’s grant will go towards upgrading in-car cameras which cost between $5,500 and $5,800 apiece, and towards taking a group of the department’s traffic officers to a convention where they will be able to network with other officers in the region.
Kelly has served as the district’s liaison for the Governor’s Highway Safety Commission for the last seven years, a role in which he communicates with other departments on best policing practices. Since taking this position, Kelly has received more than $200,000 from the Commission for the Rockingham Police Department.
“It’s something I enjoy doing,” Kelly said. “I get a chance to meet other officers from other parts of the state and you get to see how they operate, as well as how they learn from us.”
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674.