Lake Township police officers may soon have access to warrant information, license plate numbers, and criminal mug shots - all from the palm of their hands.
The department has been working with the Core Technology Corp. of Lansing, Mich., for about a year, and may soon be the first police department in northern Ohio to access such information from a computerized hand-held BlackBerry communications device, said Township Police Chief Mark Hummer.
He said the devices will have Internet, e-mail, and cell phone capabilities.
They will also be equipped with special software to call up such services as the Ohio Law Enforcement Automated Data System, which is used to run license plates and look up warrant information; the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles for driver's license pictures; and the FBI's National Crime Information Center - the system that allows police to check the background of anyone.
Core Technology provides secure criminal justice software solutions for law-enforcement agencies, and is a major service provider in Michigan, said spokesman Anand Joshi. Because they're trying to branch out to Ohio with this technology, the corporation wanted to start with a small agency close to Michigan, and Lake Township fit the bill.
"It became clear that it's not sufficient to have information available in an office or in the car," Mr. Joshi said. "What they're really looking for is data information and images or both. More data needs to be provided to the police officer who is right now on the beat."
But because Core Technology is based in Michigan, Mr. Joshi said the corporation will partner with the Northwest Ohio Regional Information System, which coordinates criminal record data for agencies in Lucas County, to connect information to the devices.
Details are still being worked out with Lake Township and NORIS, but Mr. Joshi said he expects to put the devices in the officers' hands within the next month or so for the testing phase.
Since the department is the testing bed for the devices in Ohio, Chief Hummer said officers will be using about four with minimal airtime costs to the department for about six months. Each device would normally cost more than $100 and service would run about $70 per device per month with a $350 yearly license fee.
Chief Hummer said he's expecting the communications devices to be especially helpful for officers on foot, bicycle, or motorcycle patrol because they will clip directly onto the officers' belts.
"The portability of it, the affordability of it, and the efficiency of it is what got me moving forward to bring this technology to the department," he said. "This is an inexpensive way to get mobile data terminals for the smaller agencies."
While on the road, Chief Hummer said Lake Township officers only have access to a radio and a cell phone, and must call the dispatcher for any information they need while on the job. The communication devices will alleviate much of the radio traffic that comes through to the dispatcher.
"It puts information in the hands of the officers where and when they want it," said Pat Wright, director of NORIS. "That's really the advantage."
The chief said there have been more than 10,000 calls for service to the dispatcher so far this year.
Faye Balsmeyer, who has been a dispatcher for about 20 years, said she thinks the devices will be most helpful when several calls come in at once, which she said is often.
"It will give us more time to concentrate on the other calls that we have," she said.
While researching a license plate number for an officer on duty, she estimated that she could spend between 60 percent and 75 percent of her day looking up information for officers.
"That I wouldn't do anymore," she said, adding that it will save her from logging all that extra information. "They'll do most of it on their own."