The Estevan Police Service (EPS) has some new additions to its fleet of patrol vehicles, in the form of on-board computers.
The computers have been discussed for some time, as they were included in previous police budgets, but were not acquired until this year.
Police Chief Paul Ladouceur said there was a lot that went into developing the technology, and ensuring they have the proper documentation signed with other policing partners.
“We’re happy to announce that they have gone into all of our front-line police vehicles,” said Ladouceur.
The computers will have several benefits for officers. Ladouceur said they will help transform the officers’ vehicles into mobile offices, and allow them to spend more time on the streets, as opposed to in the police station writing reports.
“Right now when a member attends an occurrence, and they have to do a report in relation to that occurrence, there’s only one option for them: they have to return to the station, park the car, get out of the car, come into the station, type the report, and then go back out on the road,” said Ladouceur.
Some of these reports can be quite lengthy.
These computers allow officers to file the report in the car, so they can observe traffic and have a greater presence in the community.
They will also be able to pull up photos of wanted suspects, complete occurrence reports in the car, search other police databases to determine if somebody is wanted, or find out if someone is a threat to police or the public. They can also check vehicle licence plates and registration.
“They will be able to electronically complete traffic violations, thereby saving a lot of time for the members, as well as accident reports.”
The accident reports will be completed through a program called E-Collision, which allows the officer to complete the report in real time and provide the report to Saskatchewan Government Insurance.
It also speeds up the process for those involved in an accident, and ensures accuracy for the officers.
“When an officer goes to a call, a lot of times they need to know what they’re entering. They need to know the history of that residence. They need to know who they’re dealing with, and this allows them to do that prior to going into that call.”
This will free up dispatch time, as the special constables are currently tasked with those searches for vehicle plates, or pulling up occurrence reports. Officers are able to do it themselves at the scene.
The switch to on-board computers is not unique to Estevan, as other police services have been using them for several years.
Ladouceur said there haven’t been any problems since the computers were installed in vehicles. Officers will start training in early June, with information on records management, writing and retrieving reports, and electronic collisions and ticketing.
“We’re hoping that everyone will have their training by the end of June.”
The computers are as functional as an office computer, and they’re ergonomically designed. They’re even fully adjusted to accommodate the size and the height of the officer.
“They’re on swivels. It’s what we call a docking station, so with the turn of a key, these computers can then be removed. The officer can take them in to take a report directly in a residence or somewhere else. They can bring that computer into the police station to do work on it, and take it back out and dock it back in the station on the car.”
Computers are built to military specs, and have proven themselves in a policing environment.
The police chief said they looked at a number of records management systems. This one allows them to be tied to the RCMP’s records management system, which allows the EPS to search the RCMP database, and vice-versa.
“We really had to look at how we can work together, integrate computer systems in our cars that will still enable us the technology to be able to share that information fluidly between agencies.
“That takes a lot of research and a lot of time and a lot planning and a lot of programming to come up with solution that’s going to fit everybody’s needs.”
It also needs to be a secure system, so that information on the computers is not intercepted.