The Athens Police Department is introducing some new technology that is expected to make its operations more efficient.
At Monday’s Athens City Council study session, Interim Police Chief Fred Schultz and Patrol Sgt. Casey Patterson gave an overview and demonstration of the department’s new e-citation system.
“This has been in the pipeline for several months,” said Schultz. “We went online with it last month.”
The department is also putting in place a new records management system that will work in conjunction with the e-citation system.
“It’s more efficient, it’s safer, it reduces errors,” said Schultz of the e-citations.
As an example of the system’s efficiency, Schultz noted that an average traffic stop takes between 10 and 15 minutes. With the new system, Schultz expects this time to be shortened to between three and five minutes.
Schultz added that the new system should enhance officer and motorist safety. He noted a study that concluded between 35% and 40% of officer fatalities occur during traffic stops.
The e-citation system operates on a pair of devices. A handheld device about the size of a smartphone is used to input and scan information and communicates with a small portable printer.
The devices are brought back to the department and placed in a dock to download information into the main database. The device is capable of communicating via a wireless internet connection, but there are no immediate plans to use this feature, according to Schultz.
Schultz said the new system will eliminate several data entry steps and reports will be available more quickly.
“Once you download it, all that information that you scanned on the scene is already in that system,” he said.
Patterson said the department currently has 10 units which are able to scan driver’s licenses, registrations and other relevant information. As an example, Patterson said, if a driver does not have their vehicle registration, the unit can scan a vehicle identification number to instantly determine registration status.
Eventually, officers will be able to instantly share information through these devices. Patterson said an example of how this could be useful is when two officers are on the scene of an accident and are separated from each other and unable to immediately communicate.
Instead of the traditional carbon copy citations usually issued, the new system prints out a citation that looks similar to a grocery store receipt. These citations will include a QR code that can be scanned to provide all necessary information — court dates, payment locations, etc. — to the person being cited.
“It gives our citizens a little quicker access instead of having to call (the police department),” said Patterson.
The system is currently being used primarily for traffic citations, but eventually the department expects these units to facilitate all data entry.