Hagerstown police aim for technology

November 12, 1996


Staff Writer

Here's a scenario that could come straight from a television police drama:

The police arrest a suspect on a minor charge, fingerprint him and release him. Months later, officers receive word that the man they arrested lied about his identity. His fingerprints indicate that the suspect is wanted for a serious offense in another state.

It's not just the stuff of sweeps week. Hagerstown Police Chief Dale Jones says it has happened in the past.

"We've literally released homicide suspects from other jurisdictions," he told Hagerstown's mayor and City Council Tuesday as they toured police headquarters.

A more modern computer system would eliminate that problem by allowing Hagerstown officers to network with federal law enforcement computers, Jones said. He said this would give arresting officers immediate access to such information.


Jones said computer upgrades and new radio equipment are at the top of the department's wish list for the coming year. He also said the "optimum" size of the department would be 10 to 15 sworn officers more than the current level of 92.

Jones estimated new radio equipment would cost between $400,000 and $500,000. Parts of the existing system were upgraded in 1987, but Jones said the console is old. Standing beside dispatchers, Jones also told the mayor and Council members that the department has no backup equipment.

"If this goes down, we're done," he said. "We're dead in the water."

New computer equipment, which Jones pegged at $500,000 to $750,000, ultimately could save officers on the beat time and the department money.

"There are many more things we would be able to do with a new computer system," he said.

Jones said he hopes to install laptop computers in squad cars so officers can easily send reports to headquarters and get information.

Eventually, he said, the department could have a paperless reporting system and the booking and fingerprinting procedure could be automated. This would save a great deal of money, he said.

In the distant future, Jones said he would like to have equipment already in use in some cities that allows dispatch calls to go directly to a computer in the squad car.

The Herald-Mail Articles