September 7, 2002
Regula eyes millions for police radio link
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula is seeking millions of dollars in federal grants to help link radio frequencies among dozens
of public safety agencies in Stark County.
Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, who is vice chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, set to work after the
shooting death of a Massillon police officer highlighted weaknesses in the county’s police communications network.
Constitutionalist Donald W. Matthews shot Officer Eric B. Taylor on Aug. 9 in a gravel parking lot at a construction site just off Route
21 in Massillon. Matthews was being pursued by an Ohio Highway Patrol officer who tried to stop Matthews for speeding.
The Highway Patrol asked Massillon officers to provide backup support. As events unfolded, the trooper discovered Matthews had a
gun, but the trooper could relay the information only to his dispatcher, who in turn had to pass it to the Massillon dispatcher. Only at
that point was she able to warn her officers.
Matthews shot Taylor before the officer had a chance to draw his gun. Matthews then was shot and killed by other Massillon officers
and the trooper.
Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson told Regula it would cost about $8 million to install the equipment needed to allow the more than
50 different police and fire departments in the county to talk with each other on a common channel.
Regula is working on getting a federal grant in next year’s budget that would cover part of the cost. The balance would have to be
provided by local taxpayers, he said. If he is successful, the money could be available sometime after the next fiscal year begins
“It is important and I think it’s part of homeland security,” he said. “One of the goals of homeland security is to have a free flow of
information among federal agencies and probably including local ... police forces.”
Regula raised the issue Thursday with Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., chairman of an appropriations subcommittee that provides funding
for law enforcement. Regula is a member of the panel.
Wolf could put funding for Stark County in the subcommittee’s appropriations bill. The panel could then send the legislation to the full
House for approval.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a number of local governments and police agencies have requested federal help to improve
communications systems, said Dan Scandling, Wolf’s chief of staff.
“How the subcommittee is going to deal with that has not been decided,” he said. Committee staff members are crunching numbers
in preparation for a subcommittee vote on the bill later this month, he added.
Regula could not say what the chances are for getting the money, but he seemed optimistic.
“I never make predictions but I’m working on it,” he said.