of the game, according to technology officer Major Mark Seifert,
is for troopers to be fully informed about everything they need
to know as they go about their duties. The more they know, the
better they can handle the situations in which they are likely
to find themselves, he adds.
An obvious example: While making a
so-called 'routine' traffic-violation stop -- troopers say there
is no such thing as a 'routine' one -- it makes a big difference
in how the officer proceeds whether the offending vehicle is
'clean' or whether it has been reported as stolen or involved in
a crime. Until now, that information has been available, but
obtaining it has involved
the license number to the dispatcher and waiting for a reply.
Now, the officer can simply
lean over and punch the number into the computer mounted
next to him or her on the front seat of the patrol car.
Instantly, there is not only the information a dispatcher
would give but a complete record of the vehicle on the
All 350 State Police cars now
have computers. They are commonly referred to as laptops
but the models are bigger and more sophisticated than
"We've been testing mobile data
computing since 1995, starting with six vehicles. Other agencies
around the country are using it, but we think we're the first
state [police force] to be fully equipped," Seifert said.
The system is separate from
the statewide radio system, using Verizon's commercial
cellular communications network for data transmission.
More than an updated
interactive information relay, the system has capabilities
to further enhance the police patrol function. Report
generating is a significant one.
A state trooper
demonstrates the capabilities of the mobile data
reports can now be entered at the scene and accident reports
soon will be. Instead of taking notes and later transcribing the
data onto several paper forms, the officer simply responds to
computer prompts. The task becomes even quicker with the
capability to read imbedded bar codes, such as the one that is
now on the reverse of Delaware driver licenses.
installation of printers in all cars, which is expected to be
completed by this autumn, troopers will be able to issue
electronically prepared traffic violation summonses.
"By the end of 2002 we expect to
have completely, or almost completely, paperless reporting in
place," Seifert said.
Although it is obvious that
productivity takes a quantum leap in all this, he said it has
not been measured in specific terms. Being able to handle the
administrative end of the job quicker and without the need to
return to the troop as often, there will be more officers on
patrol at any given time. It is not likely that will be
reflected in any reduction in the size of the force but will
show up in more effective deployment, he explained.
The system also provides capability
for automatic vehicle positioning. Instead of having the radio
the cars for their location, commanders can pinpoint each at any
given moment and make deployment decisions accordingly.
As forces in other jurisdictions
improve their electronic capabilities, the systems will be able
to automatically interact with each other. A Delaware trooper,
for instance, will be immediately alerted if, for instance, a
holdup occurs in Maryland with the possibility that the criminal
is headed toward this state. "In the past, the complaint is that
we (different police agencies) don't talk to each other. The
truth is that we do, but this way we'll be doing it more
efficiently and more effectively," Seifert said.
He added that the computer system
will not become a tie to hold officers more closely to their
cars. Soon to come is equipping them with Palm Pilots to provide
them with much of the system's capability while on foot patrol.