Sheriffs get computers in cruisers
Cyber cops aren’t just a figment of Hollywood. They’re fully operational in El Dorado County.
The sheriff’s deputy parked off to the side of the road might be doing more than watching for speeding vehicles. He or she might be using the newest weapon in El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department arsenal – a laptop. With the help of a federal grant, the department is clawing its way into the cyber age.
“Each laptop is a miniature version of the records management system,” explained Deputy Bob Moccio, the project leader. “Reports are now entirely handled electronically.”
This is a significant change from the former paper trail that Moccio claims was labor intensive and time consuming. The laptops are just part of a larger vision: regional information sharing.
“The whole concept of regional sharing was way out. A trip to the moon,” Moccio analogized. “Historically, law enforcement officers don’t like to share information. But, by making information available to all, it increases our efficiency. After all, criminals don’t really pay attention to geographical boundaries.”
Through their satellite office, deputies can access the basics of any case or field interrogation. The Placerville Police Department has followed the county’s example and implemented the same system. Officers from both departments now have access to a shared database of information. Moccio said the department is hopeful that other law enforcement agencies will follow creating a larger regional database of information.
“Retrieval and access to information is much simpler. We wanted immediate information available to each officer and we wanted the knowledge base broadened,” Moccio said. “We found we could free up 25 deputies by automating our report writing and record-keeping systems. This results in more time spent out on patrol.”
The department went with software from the Santa Cruz-based company TracNet Corp. Moccio said the software was designed for law enforcement by a former chief of police.
The department’s proposal fit the federal grant requirements which stated that the money must be used to help agencies do more community policing. Moccio said the time savings in the office results in more time for community policing. The grant covered 75 percent of the $493,000 price tag. The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors allocated the rest of the funds.
The system became totally operational in January 1998. Now, in its second year, Lt. Fred Kollar said the system weathered some initial resistance from veterans of the force.
“Change is always hard,” Kollar explained. “With some of the people we had to start from square one. ‘This is a computer. This is how you turn it on.’ I mean really basic stuff. Plus, the idea of making their information available to everyone was hard for some to take.”
Moccio said the system also gives the department the ability to make staffing decisions based on crime analysis.
“We can easily coordinate the data with maps of the county allowing us to pinpoint where crimes are occurring and react accordingly,” Moccio said. “The benefits of this system are going to be seen years down the road.”
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