Officers ‘ecstatic’ after donations purchase laptops for patrol cars
By REBECCA MCKINSEY
The Jefferson Police Department had been hoping for them for a while — but the funding seemed impossible.
Now, though, because of several donations and grants, the department has two in-car laptops that officers say are streamlining their work, making them more efficient and allowing them to be more of a deterrent in the city.
The laptops — Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 models — cost about $7,200 each, including mounting equipment, printers and installation, Police Chief Dave Morlan said.
The two computers were funded through a Community Foundation grant, a donation from the Jefferson Fireman’s Association, money left to the police department from Jefferson resident Shirley Wiggins’ estate and money awarded by Greene County supervisors from the county’s Louis Dreyfus funds.
“We’re extremely grateful to everybody who donated,” Morlan said. “Without them, it would not have been possible for us to have these.”
The computers are mounted upright in the patrol cars, with detachable keyboards and printers built into the vehicles’ armrests. They can be removed to work as tablets as well.
The laptops run two main types of software — Traffic and Criminal Software, or TraCS, and Mobile Architecture for Communications Handling, or MACH.
Between the two programs, officers can complete incident or accident reports and electronic citations, handle deer tags, provide uniform criminal reporting for the FBI, and communicate with each other, dispatchers and officers from other agencies — other police departments, sheriff departments or the Iowa State Patrol.
The programs allow them to see where other officers’ vehicles are, who is in each vehicle and if they are available. Officers can use MACH’s messaging program to coordinate with each other when several of them are on patrol, removing the need to tie up their radios.
The new equipment, which includes barcode scanners, allows officers to scan driver’s licenses and registration, type up accident reports or tickets, print the forms, have them signed and notarized, scan the signatures and send the forms to the clerk of court’s office with the push of a few buttons.
With the computers, officers can run license plates and driver’s licenses and check for stolen items.
“Usually, you’d have to call in by radio and have the dispatcher round that up, but now it’s in the car at their fingertips,” Morlan said.
And when dispatchers find out information that pertains to an officer’s call, they can transmit the details through the system.
“The reports are all done in field, sitting there on the street where people will see (the officers),” Morlan said. “It puts the office in the car for them.”
The first laptop has been in use for several weeks, and the other will be set up once its mounting equipment and printer arrive.
The police department has seven officers, including Morlan, and four vehicles. The cars receiving the computers are the two that need them most, he said — those used by the shift officers and supervisors. The additional vehicles are Morlan’s pickup and a spare patrol vehicle.
Jefferson police officer Heath Enns has used one of the laptops on most of his shifts since it arrived and said it has made his work much easier.
Its duplication capabilities are especially useful for writing multiple tickets for the same offender, he said. Being able to type up incident reports in the car, while they are fresh in his mind, is also handy.
“Writing reports before we come back to the station, when we’re out in public — people can still see us,” Enns said. “We’re still visible. Just having the car out in public is a deterrent.”
He added that one of the biggest advantages of the laptops is being able to more easily communicate with other agencies and departments.
“They’re neat for us to have,” Morlan said. “The guys are just ecstatic.”
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