The days when police officers use a pen to write citations for traffic violations and minor criminal offenses are starting to come to a close.
The days when people receive tickets for such offenses are not, however.
Brookfield police recently received a grant to equip two cruisers with the equipment to write electronic citations.
“The court wants us to switch over to eCitations,” Brookfield Police Chief Dan Faustino told the township trustees Feb. 7.
The court is Trumbull County Eastern District Court, and it is by no means alone in pushing for greater automation of what has been a major case of paperwork shuffling. Many police departments throughout the country have been filing court documents electronically for some time, and the Ohio Highway Patrol has done so to Eastern District Court for more than a year, said Linda Sypert, the court’s information technology specialist.
“Right now, they have to drop off all the tickets manually, and then the clerks have to key them in,” Sypert said of old-fashioned paper citations. “This way, all the keying’s gonna be done by the officers themselves.”
There are several advantages to eCitations, she said. Court clerks will no longer have to interpret handwriting – sometimes incorrectly – nor spend time entering the information into the computer system. They will review the citations that are filed.
Police departments will no longer have to take the time to drive to the court to file the citations, and the software comes with checks and balances that corrects certain information, such as incorrectly entered Ohio Revised Code numbers, Sypert said.
An eCitation can be available to court staff about 10 minutes after an officer submits one, a benefit to offenders, who sometimes call or stop in to address a citation before it has been filed with the court, she said.
“That’s what the process is, basically, to help everybody out, the court, the officer and the constituent,” Sypert said.
The court received a $5,265 grant from the Ohio Supreme Court to pay for the interfacing that links the police department’s data storage server with the court’s, Sypert said. Eastern District Court Judge Marty Nosich used the court’s special projects fund – offenders pay into this through court costs – to issue a $2,522 grant to Brookfield police to install the eCitation equipment, the most expensive piece of which is the printer, she said.
Faustino said the printers will be mounted on the roll bars, up and away from the officer.
“We have so much equipment, you’re trying to equip these cars, and the cars get smaller and the amount of equipment, electronics grows,” he said.
Offenders still will receive a paper copy of the ticket, he said.
The department still will need a supply of paper citations for use when the system is down, Faustino said.
The Supreme Court grant carries an implementation deadline of June 30, and Faustino said he hopes to make the system operational in May.
“I’ve been on the chief’s case every time I see him,” Sypert said. After Brookfield is up and running, “We want to get Hartford and all the other communities, other police departments that are in our jurisdiction that aren’t doing it as well.”