Apr 02 2009

Prattville police to drive high-tech

By Marty Roney

The Prattville Police Department is going "inkless" by putting computers in patrol cars, and the end result will mean officers will be able to spend more time on the road instead of in the office.

A $400,000 federal grant will pay for computers for 50 vehicles, said Chief Alfred Wadsworth, who received notice Wednesday from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby's office that the funds were on the way.

"This grant will allow us to have the same computers on the road that we have in the office," Wadsworth said. "Reports and citations can be completed in the field, and the officers can download them to the office and the state with a push of a button. We have nine laptops that use the program now. With the grant, all of our first responders will have the capability."

There's not yet a timeline for getting the program up and running.

Officers on patrol will have instant access to crime alerts, electronic mug shots of suspects and descriptions of vehicles sought in investigations.

Police departments in the tri-county area have had computers in patrol cars for years, but don't have the capability of filling out reports and citations electronically.

Departments in Millbrook, Wetumpka and Montgomery are working to get similar programs in place.

The Wetumpka Police Department is meeting with the Elmore County Sheriff's Office and a technology company today to discuss the program, Chief Celia Dixon said.

"It will allow us to be more efficient and have the officer stay on the road longer each shift," she said. "I'll support anything that helps our officers do their jobs better."

Keeping officers up to speed is key, Wadsworth said, and the speedy dissemination of information means a safer community.

"If you are looking for a suspect, you need information as quickly as possible," the chief said. "That's especially important for the officers on patrol."