Patrol cars going electronic

Published 6:24 pm Wednesday, June 3, 2009

As soon as January 2010, the state will start requiring law enforcement agencies to file motor vehicle accident reports via the Internet.

The state-mandated electronic conversion will also change how police departments and sheriff’s departments issue citations.

Two different kinds of software, called eCrash and eCitation, will replace virtually everything departments do that involves paperwork.

Jemison Police Department has equipped one patrol car with the necessary hardware and eCitation software. Officer Tera Mayfield says she is saving between 5 to 10 minutes per incident, allowing her to do her job more efficiently.

“I love it,” Mayfield said Wednesday. “It’s a lot better being able to scan a driver’s license and not having to write everything. It just takes a lot less time.”

The hardware consists of three basic pieces of equipment: a computer monitor, printer, and card scanner. With a simple swipe of a driver’s license, an officer can access a person’s record via the Internet, fill in the information electronically and print out a citation.

When issuing multiple tickets, officers can duplicate a citation with just the click of a button.

“All the information is already there. You just have to put in all the charges,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield took an eight-hour training course to learn about the software. She has been using it for about a month and has issued about 50 citations with the program.

The department equipped the car using a $3,700 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs through the Highway Traffic Safety Program. The grant funded everything except installation. The ultimate goal is to equip 10 cars with the system, at the approximate cost of $5,000 per unit.

“We will eventually have that technology in every Jemison patrol car,” Jemison Chief of Police Shane Fulmer said. “I’m seeking ways to obtain grants to fund it any way I can.”

Fulmer likes the software because it will allow officers to remain visible in the community without having to make as many trips to the office to fill out paperwork.

“It’s an intriguing and complex thing,” he said. “It’s going to make our jobs not necessarily easier but more efficient and more accountable. I had much rather have them sit in their cars being visible than to have to spend an hour and a half doing paperwork.”