MAHONING VALLEY Cops in no rush on ticket upgrades

Becoming equipped to issue electronic traffic citations is not a top priority for local police departments.
YOUNGSTOWN -- High-tech traffic tickets may soon boost efficiency in some Ohio police departments, but in the tri-county area citations are still issued the old-fashioned way -- at least for now.
"I would like to do everything by computer," said Jeffrey Patterson, Boardman's police chief.
Using laptop computers to enter information and print citations would save on labor. Officers issuing citations would enter the information during traffic stops rather than handwriting tickets, eliminating the need for clerks to enter information into the system once officers return to the station, Patterson explained.
It also would eliminate the need for clerks at the court to enter information into dockets.
What's necessary: Before that can happen, however, courts must be equipped to receive electronic data and patrol cars must be equipped with the computers necessary to issue and store the citations. So, Patterson said, switching from handwritten citations to an electronic system "is not in the near future."
In January, the Ohio Supreme Court adopted a rule that allows computer-generated tickets to be issued for traffic violations and a few Ohio police departments, including the Lorain Police Department, have begun equipping cruisers with laptop computers necessary to incorporate the new system.
Although the cruisers of several area police departments are equipped with computers that allow officers to complete records checks on individuals and vehicles, how soon they will begin to equip cruisers with computers capable of printing citations is uncertain.
"It's not high on our list of priorities," said Capt. Timothy A. Bowers of the Warren Police Department. "What we're working on is getting photos into the cars."
Warren's cruisers are already equipped with mobile data terminals that allow officers to access state and federal databases to retrieve information about vehicle registrations and drivers. What's lacking, Bowers said, is the ability to retrieve photos, which would allow officers to verify the identities of individuals who can't produce their driver's licenses.
Around the area: Lt. Mark Durkin, Austintown police chief, said his department is "always looking at new technology for the future" but has no definitive plan to install computers that can generate traffic citations.
The same is true in Youngstown. "That technology has not been something that we have reviewed yet, and we're unfamiliar with it," said Lt. Robin Lees.
In Salem, police chief C.M. Weitz said, "We still do it the old-fashioned way -- the officer initiates the stop, then gets out with pen or pencil in hand and issues the citation. We have no plans to change at this time due to economic constraints."
Niles police officers issue citations by hand, too, and traffic officer John Marshall said he has no knowledge of plans to purchase or change equipment. "I hope all cruisers will be equipped with computers, but I don't know if that's in the realm of what the city is planning to do," Marshall said.
Issuing citations using electronic devices could be a timesaver, said Warren's Bowers. The devices allow officers to swipe driver's licenses much like retailers swipe credit cards.
Licenses contain either a bar code or a magnetic strip that contain information about the driver that is automatically printed on the ticket, eliminating the need for officers to key the information in or write it by hand.

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