Deputies get car laptops

Published 11:06 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Those who listen to the police scanner may notice something new: silence.

Thanks to a state grant, deputies with the Marengo County Sheriff’s Department will not have to rely as much on a dispatcher to relay information.

Thirteen laptop computers were recently installed in the patrol cars.

“It’s going to help immensely in the solving of crimes and the apprehension of criminals,” said chief deputy Tommie Reese.

The computers were purchased through a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

With a few keystrokes, deputies may pull up a person’s driving record, registration information on a vehicle and information about whether a subject has personal protection orders against him or is out on bond, parole or probation with conditions that limit his activities.

“When an officer makes a traffic stop, he or she can run the person’s license plate from the unit, they can run a driver’s license check from the computer,” Reese said. “It also has a link to check a license photo.”

Reese said that in less than a second, the information requested is displayed on the officer’s computer if someone has an arrest warrant pending or criminal record.

“It doesn’t eliminate our contact with dispatch altogether, but for us, we run a lot of traffic, so it will significantly decrease our air time with dispatch,” Reese said. “The officer will still call dispatch and inform them they are making a traffic stop, but they won’t contact them again unless he needs to until he clears the stop.”

Initial use of the laptops will be database checks and report writing. Rather than waiting until they come back to the station at the end of the shift, deputies can begin typing up their reports while they’re out in the field.