A federally funded service that has connected thousands of rural police to Internet and e-mail access is shutting down this month, jeopardizing service for 1,500 users in at least 20 states, USA Today reports. Agencies in the most isolated parts of rural America will be hardest hit, says Comanche Nation Police Chief Vernon Griffin. They use the service to solicit help for such basic operations as preparing search warrants and responding to officer fatalities. “For some departments, this service is a lifeline,” says Dallas, Or., Chief Jim Harper, a 10-year program member who oversees an 18-officer force. “People don’t realize how many small agencies are trying to take care of business day-to-day with very little.”
The program, known as the Tribal Rural Law Enforcement Internet Project, has operated in some form since 1995. It is based at the National Center for Rural Law Enforcement at the University of Arkansas. Program manager Jimmy Nobles says members are “beside themselves” at the prospect of losing it. Nobles says nearly 60 departments rely on the project for basic Internet access. A Justice Department spokeswoman says the grant period for the program ended. Over the years, Justice provided at least $1.4 million to support it.