MONROE - After spending more than $150,000 to turn the Monroe County Sheriff's office into a model of efficiency, deputies have run into the same problem faced by the first person to use the Internet: With whom do you share the technological advancement?
“The downside [to the paperless report system] is the fact that, so far, we don't have total buy-in. We're still having to print out [reports] to get them to the prosecutor's office,” Sheriff's Office Major Tom Scott said.
Defense attorneys require hard copies of the complaints, he said.
The sheriff's office received a federal grant of more than $123,000 to fund its paperless project in August.
The grant was from the Department of Justice's COPSMORE 2002 program and paid for the system by which deputies produce and access reports and for a database to store those reports within the records division.
The department had to kick in $30,000 of its own money as part of the grant process. The system was up and running May 1.
To sheriff's deputies like Sgt. Enrico “Ric” Galimberti, who commands the department's detective bureau, the electronic reporting system has allowed him to focus his attention on cases that can be solved and has eliminated the mound of paperwork that used to be the topographical centerpiece of his desk.
“The [three district station lieutenants] screen the reports and route the important ones for me to see up here,” Sergeant Galimberti said.
“When I bring my screen up, there's a lot less to look at, so I'm able to spend more time scrutinizing the ones we should be looking at.”
Major Scott said the sheriff's office has experienced a saving on personnel hours in the month the system has been online because the paperwork shuffle has been eliminated.
Despite the technological progress, it may be a long time before the county's entire criminal justice system moves completely away from paper files.
“We're still working out glitches to the point where we can go paperless eventually,” said County Prosecutor Mike Weipert. “[Deputies] are sending us reports via e-mail, but they're also sending us over hard copies until everything's working smoothly.”
Mr. Weipert said his staff isn't reluctant to embrace the technology, but “[we] recognize that we're still going to have to have the paper so defense attorneys can access them.”<$EB>
The county prosecutor said he and Sheriff Crutchfield have had several conversations about the paperless system, which uses a program called QuickForms written by Deputy Brett Ortolano nearly 10 years ago and since refined.
While Mr. Weipert says it will take time to get his assistant prosecutors used to the idea of working without reams of paperwork on their desks, he believes that eventually they will come to appreciate the electronic paperwork process and may expand what they are able to do in their jobs.
“I like the idea that our [assistant prosecutors] would be able to respond to some incidents even out in the field at the scene with laptop computers.
“With on-call prosecutors, we may even be able to do things from home, in terms of processing warrants and things, by electronic signature,” Mr. Weipert said.
“I see this as being the way of the future, and we're kind of hoping this becomes the standard for the whole state.”