After an officer with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office responds to a call, a handwritten report is submitted, which is then entered into a computer system after it’s approved by a supervisor.
Officials hope to cut out a few steps along the way by implementing an electronic field reporting system in which the officer will be able to create a report on a handheld device no bigger than a cellphone. In theory, this switch for officers will make calls run more smoothly and save time while in the field.
With the personal data assistant, or PDA, officers can type the report on the scene and instantaneously send it electronically into the system, where it can be viewed by officers from the WCSD and surrounding law enforcement agencies.
“The PDAs allow the officers to run queries on people’s driver’s licence and license plates, things like that, whereas now they have to call in on the radio to a dispatcher to run that information for them,” Maj. Russell Jamerson said.
In many cases, there is a delay in waiting to get information from a dispatcher during a call, Jamerson said. During peak work periods, it can be difficult to get information through the radio. With the PDA, an officer will be able to search for whatever information they need through the electronic system.
Jamerson said there are several other reasons for the switch, including catching the office up with the digital age and saving paper.
Another reason is the Tennessee Department of Safety requirement for law enforcement agencies to submit electronic crash reports. Now crash reports are handwritten and mailed to the department.
“The state wants us to do a electronic reporting on that, and this system will facilitate that also,” Jamerson said.
The devices are free through Verizon and annual air time is $20,000 per year, which Jamerson said was approved by the Washington County Commission in the department’s annual budget. The DataDriven software for electronic reporting was $130,000, which was paid for through the department’s asset forfeiture fund.
Beginning in mid-August, the WCSO will begin testing out the PDAs will several officers and hope to have the devices department-wide by the end of September.