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SmartCops Might Free Up Cops for Real Work

April 25, 2005 – On a recent weekday morning, a police officer sat at the Ancilmod Marshall Command Post in Christiansted cursing the new computer system in front of him. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," he said in frustration.
Virgin Islands Police Commissioner Elton Lewis thinks some things in his police department are broke, however, and he is hoping SmartCops management software will help him fix it. The computer system to help police coordinate their activities and organize data is being implemented this month.
At a recent St. Croix Chamber of Commerce meeting, Lewis admitted it was not going to be easy to get everyone trained in new technology. "Some people are still intimidated by computers," he said. He also admitted that all the technology might not yet be perfect.
With the new system, headquarters will at all times be able to pinpoint on an electronic grid where all police units were. A questioner at the chamber meeting asked if there might not be problems because of "dead spots" on St. Croix, where radio transmissions seemed difficult. Lewis said yes, that was possible, and it was being checked out.
SmartCops will profoundly change the way the officer on the street works. Instead of writing reports on forms, the officer will be typing reports directly into a computer.
Police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Hannah said Monday that department heads hope to have a computer in every patrol car by the end of this year.
Information won't have to be rewritten every time it is used. The officer's name could be programmed in. Dates and times would come up automatically. Codes could be entered to bring up information relevant to certain incidents. Also, when the dispatcher receives information, such as the address and what the incident is about, that will be entered into the system; the officer on the street will not have to re-enter it.
Hannah said a duty officer will scan all reports that shift and sign off that the information has been entered correctly. For samples of what the system does, see www.smartcops.net/.
The software is broken down into categories for inventory, incident reports and personnel.
Of course, there was a glitch when the department started to implement the system earlier this month. News reporters are used to looking at the "police blotter," a book with incident reports written in it. Once officers started entering everything in the computer, the blotter disappeared. This caused some outcry by the "V.I. Daily News." The glitch has now been resolved, with reporters having access to a computer terminal that allows them to look at recent incident reports, Hannah said. Filters are in place that will hide the names of rape victims and juveniles.
The software also should help the person who drops by the station to pick up an accident report for insurance purposes. The person will just have to give the dispatcher the case number, and it will be printed out, Hannah said. In the old system, the dispatcher had to search through files to find the report and then make a copy of it.
By streamlining administrative tasks, the software advertises itself as allowing "police officers to spend time doing what they do best… serving and protecting the population."
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