Gloucester Township, NJ's $8,000 purchase of a Segway scooter for use by police officers has some people rolling their eyes.
But Mayor David Mayer sees the device as a flexible tool for patrolling parks, walkways and other places. "An officer can cover more ground than by walking," he says. And like another recent police purchase -- a $277,000 "Bearcat" armored vehicle -- it will enhance public safety, Mayer insists.
"The Segway is part of the community policing strategy we started two years ago," he says, noting that citizens are "less likely to interact with a police officer who is behind the wheel of a cruiser" than one who is on a bike, golf cart or scooter.
"Community policing is about connecting with the public. This is new technology to engage with the public," he adds.
The armored vehicle was requested by township police after the massacre in Newtown, Ct. last December, and was purchased as part of a reorganization of patrols and other police activities at township schools.
"I asked Chief [Harry] Earle, 'would this provide us with an ability to...save a life?' He said yes," Mayer says. "We had available money in our capital budget because of projects that came in under budget."
Earle charcterizes both pieces of equipment as practical enhancements to the work of his 122-member department.
"Obviously we would hope something like Sandy Hook, or like we're seeing today [in Boston] would not occur," Earle says. "But we do have situations where [the Bearcat] can offer a level of protection that greatly increases the safety of the officer."
Meanwhile, stories about the new equipment are attracting critical comments on the Gloucester Township Patch website.
But Mayer says the Segway is hardly the talk of the town. "I was at events this weekend where there were probably 300 people, and no one brought it up."
UPDATED: 4:35 PM Monday