YCSO trying to replace grant money it had to give back

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Free money given to the Yakima County Sheriff's Office - gone. Almost $250,000 was supposed to be spent on dashboard cameras for patrol cars. But, the department never spent the money and had to give it back.

It was supposed to be a first for the sheriff's office: dash-cams for every patrol car.

Legends Casino gave the department $230,000 almost exactly a year ago. But, Sheriff Ken Irwin changed his mind on the cameras.

"Dash-cams would've been a good tool, but a much higher priority are the radios, and I choose to go after them," said Irwin.

That change in priority wound up costing the sheriff's office the money. Irwin asked the grant committee if his agency could put it toward a better radio system instead. His request was denied, and the sheriff's office gave back the grant.

"You had this free money; why didn't you just take it while you could have?" KIMA asked.

"Well, that's one of the criticisms of government, in that they always are accused of always wanting to just spend the money just because they have it," said Irwin.

But, the grant was specifically for the cameras. At the time, Irwin said they would provide vital information to put criminals behind bars.

Action News first told you about the problems with radio communications in April. Deputies can lose reception in certain areas.

"They're absolutely the most important tool we have out there other than the employee themselves," said Irwin.

Irwin said he knew he could lose the grant, but he was willing to take that chance.

"Was there a possibility you could've gotten money last year for the dash cam and then money again this year for the radio systems?" KIMA asked.

"Yes, but not as much," said Irwin.

Irwin thinks, by giving back the money, he has a better chance of getting a bigger grant from the casino for the radios.

The sheriff's office applied for a $1.5 million grant this year from Legends Casino. A decision should come by the end of the month.

Sheriff Irwin said he'll reapply to get money for dash-cams after upgrading the radio system.