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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

Laptops save time for patrol

Sunday, June 29, 2003

(Photo)
Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Ron Eakens finishes up some work on the laptop in his patrol car.
POPLAR BLUFF -- Sometimes Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Slaughter can put in a full day's work and not even be seen by his co-workers. Thanks to the laptop computer recently installed in his patrol car.

"I never hear him (on the radio)," noted Lt. Brent Davis of the Patrol. "Mike does all of his 10-28s and 10-29s (license/background checks) in his car. He's gone a whole shift without us even seeing him. This is definitely a whole revolutionary movement."

In April 2002, a laptop was installed inside the patrol car of trooper Ron Eakens, who works at the patrol's Sikeston satellite. Since then three other patrol officers from Sikeston's office, which covers Scott, New Madrid and Mississippi counties, have had laptops installed in their cars, Eakens said.

While Eakens said he personally doesn't care for computers because he thinks they're a little awkward -- they do save time, and eventually every patrol officer will have them."Laptops actually work pretty good," Slaughter said, who works at the Poplar Bluff zone. "I'm not a genius on computers, but it's actually worked out really nice."

With the laptop, officers are able to do racial profiling after every stop and they're able to save from doing double paper work, Slaughter said.

And by working in his car, Slaughter is able to be seen out in the field and sitting there with his radar on while working at the same time, he said.

When officers want to run a license check, they don't even have to radio into the patrol headquarters -- they can do it all with their laptops.

"It's funny because since I don't radio all of my checks in, it doesn't come across scanners," Slaughter said. "I've pulled people over who have scanners, and they'll say 'I didn't even know you were there. It didn't show up.'"

Officers can also run criminal background checks using the laptops. The only thing officers can't do is print, and there is no Internet access, Slaughter said.

"We did a pilot project with the laptops that targeted Saline and Cole counties in Jefferson City's Troop A a couple years ago," said Lt. Greg Smith of the patrol's Field Operations Bureau in Jefferson City.

Community Oriented Policing Services technical federal grants were awarded to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Smith said, starting the pilot project.

"Initially 150 laptops were installed last year in Troop C. Now we're in the middle of installing 400 laptops and expect to have 550 total in the state by the end of the year," said Smith. "Eventually every car in the state will have a laptop," he added.

Prior to using the laptops, patrol officers receive training on how to utilize the computer. With the laptops, officers can download reports on arrests, traffic stops and other investigations right from the cars, Smith explained.

"The biggest benefit (of laptops) is that it allows officers to free up their time at their zone office," Smith said. Smith said he's received nothing but positive feedback from other officers utilizing the Mobile Computer Data, or MCDs as the laptops are commonly referred to by the patrol.

Global Positioning Systems, or GPS, which are installed with the computer, also make traveling easier for officers. GPS provides detailed road maps and driving directions.

"I think it's a real nice tool. Sometimes if you're not sure of exact county roads, especially if a sign's been knocked down or something, the GPS gives you a map and tells you exactly where to go," Slaughter said.

Don't expect patrol car radios to disappear anytime soon either. Slaughter said he always has his on -- it's just turned down low.

Officers with laptops can turn the volume up on the radio if they have a message, Slaughter explained. If the radio gets tied up and someone is in pursuit -- and an officer with a laptop is not involved, they can still run their own checks, he said.

"All in all, the laptop has been real handy -- especially since we have seven officers and two computers in our zone office," Slaughter said. "It saves a lot of headaches and a lot of time."