[Editor's Note: Gary Dulude consults for Trimble, whose products are described in this article.]
In a mid-size city like Portland, OR., police officers write about 130,000 tickets a year. The 45 officers working in the traffic division write more than half of that total: that works out to an average of 10-15 tickets a day for each of them. Until late 2005, officers wrote conventional paper tickets that need to be gathered up and sent over to the courts in a big envelope, then entered manually into the courts' computer systems. Office staff at police headquarters hand collated the tickets for a monthly tally of citations issued, but there was no searchable database to find specific citation information.
That's all changing as Portland moves to electronic ticketing. The department recently completed a pilot program testing mobile citation-writing software and a Trimble Recon rugged handheld computer equipped with Bluetooth and GPRS wireless cards. The traffic division's 45 officers are now writing electronic tickets on the handhelds, and as funding is available, the Portland Police Bureau will expand the system to include other divisions.
The new system is designed to save time, both when the ticket is written and when it's processed by the courts. Just as important, it increases accuracy, reduces paperwork, and gives the Bureau aggregate information on citations it can use to deploy officers to areas where accidents and violations occur most frequently.
The Citation Wizard lists complete driver information.
Software developers map the ticket-writing process
The Portland Police Bureau worked with the software's developers to design the electronic citation-writing process so that it follows standard police procedures, including how and where the citation records need to go. According to Bill Sinnott, Commander of the Traffic Division at the Portland Police Bureau, the developers went through a white board process with traffic officers. They needed to understand every single action and every single nuance in the ticket-writing process, Sinnott said. They had to completely understand what we do, how we do it, and then turn that into software that writes an electronic ticket.
In addition to traffic officers, IT staff, and others from the Bureau's records division, the courts, and the District Attorney's office were also involved in the design process so as to determine how to manage the flow of information back and forth between officers, police headquarters, and the courts.
In creating a workflow for writing tickets electronically, Sinnott said the goal was to automate as much of the process as possible. One reason was to save time; the less time it takes to complete a traffic stop, the less chance there is of a confrontation with the driver that could threaten the officer's safety. What's more, completing stops quickly minimizes hazards to both the driver and officer in areas with heavy traffic.
Automating steps also prevents technical errors, and electronic citations eliminate the handwriting problem common with hand-written tickets. Sinnott said that some citations fail to make it through the courts because of errors, incomplete data and legibility issues.
The Citation Wizard lets officers quickly select common driving infractions.