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City adds electronic efficiency

June 16, 2011
Meg Alexander - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - The "e" in eCharging and eCitations stands for "electronic," but it could just as well stand for "efficiency."

Data entry is a big part of law enforcement, but the process is about to get faster.

This week, Fairmont City Council signed an agreement that will enable the police department and prosecutors to link into the state criminal justice communications network and electronically file and print charges.

Fairmont Police Chief Greg Brolsma said eCharging will be especially helpful for meeting state deadlines for court proceedings.

"It is always a bit challenging. ... Many times we're just barely making the deadline," he said, explaining that officers have to write their reports and get them to the prosecutor, who then figures out what the charges are. A person can only be held in jail for so long while these charges are pending and while they wait for their first court appearance.

"Manually moving paper around just takes time that sometimes we don't have, so this will expedite that and help us meet those obligations much easier and free up officer time for other duties," Brolsma said.

Similarly, the council approved a subscriber agreement for Minnesota Court Data Services for the city attorney and police department that will give local law enforcement access to eCitation technology.

Without a grant, the city would not be able to afford the services, but local entities recently learned they will receive $500,000 to install the eCitation software and hardware in their squad cars.

"This will expedite a lot of things," Brolsma said, "and it reduces data entry as it increases accuracy and speed."

Currently, when an officer issues a citation, he or she must first figure out what the citation should be, which isn't always easy because of an increasing number of state laws. The form is then filled out and turned in to the law enforcement office. Someone at a desk enters the information, which is then sent on to the court administrator.

With eCitations, this will "all be done with a card swipe," Brolsma said, including filing the data with the state.

Applying cooperatively for the grant were Martin, Faribault, Waseca and Blue Earth counties.

By working together, the consortium increased its chances of getting funding, since money was designated for larger populations.

"We were able to show we're covering a lot of real estate, a lot of population," Brolsma said.

Pending the state government shutdown, training for eCharging will take place Aug. 1-3. Dates when the eCitation services will be implemented are not yet known.

While technological advancements can sometimes reduce the need for workers, Brolsma does not foresee the improved efficiency will result in personnel cuts.

"With law enforcement as it is now, there are services people want that we aren't meeting yet, so this may at least help us better meet those demands," he said.



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