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City Council OKs mobile computers for police

March 24, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Police Department is one step closer to completing a computer system overhaul that officials say will help keep officers out of the office and on the street, but it could be at least August before the system is completed.

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday night approved a contract to buy 20 mobile computers from Pelican Mobile, of Glen Burnie, Md., for $78,925. There were no opposing votes on the measure.

The computers will be placed in patrol cars and will enable officers to enter reports and check personal and vehicle records from behind the wheel, City Police Chief Arthur Smith said.

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Because of the purchasing process, the computers will not be installed in the cars until about June, Smith said before the meeting. Then the computers will serve only as word-processors until Washington County officials update the dispatch system so data can be transmitted to and from cars. Smith said he didn't expect the county's system to be operating until August.

Before voting for the contract, City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner praised the purchase.

"I think it's something we've been trying to get accomplished for a long time, and it's nice to see it actually happening," Metzner said.

Earlier Tuesday, a police department supervisor said the computers would help on the front lines of police work.

"It's gonna keep people on the street more," said Sgt. Mark Renner, a patrol shift supervisor. "It's gonna cut down on a lot of paperwork. ... It's gonna help the records system. I think it's wonderful."

Renner said the current system requires officers either to write reports by hand in their cars or to go into headquarters to type up reports on a desktop computer.

Smith said once the county's data transmission system is in place, officers not only will be able to write reports in their cars and send them digitally to their supervisors, but they'll be able to check license plates, driver's records and other computerized personal information that would identify someone as dangerous or wanted by other agencies.

Efforts to digitize the city's record-keeping system were slowed during a contract problem several years ago, but the city is in the midst of an $880,000 upgrade to its computer system, about $500,000 of which will be paid by the city. The rest will be grant-funded. Placing computers in patrol cars is one of the last steps in the process, police officials have said

Among larger police departments, the city will be the first in Washington County to put computers in its cars, but the Town of Hancock has had computers in its four patrol cars for several years, Hancock Police Chief Donald Gossage said.

Gossage said he also is waiting for the county to put its data transmission system in place so his officers can perform record checks from their vehicles.

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