BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – Lee County Sheriff’s deputies received new weapons this month.
But these weapons are aimed at keeping deputies on the streets longer by creating efficiencies in their daily routines. All ten of the county’s sheriff’s deputies vehicles now have Panasonic ToughBooks installed and at the deputies fingertips.
The new systems, which took about $75,000 out of Sheriff Stacy Weber’s budget over the next three years, were installed last week and now deputies are going through training.
Chief Deputy Will Conlee said the systems are game changers for deputies.
“This is basically dispatch in the car,” Conlee said Tuesday morning. “This is now seeing vs hearing. Our deputies now have information at their fingertips and can see reports in front of them that, up until now, they’ve heard from dispatch. It’s literally in their cars.”
Training is still ongoing with the deputies and Conlee said state software managers are coming down to the department on Thursday to help train on the software and troubleshoot issues with deputies.
Conlee demonstrated how scanners plugged into the computer’s port can scan driver’s licenses and import information into warning and tickets, that can also be printed from inside the deputies arm rest.
The computers are also hooked up to the car and deputy camera systems and footage can be viewed directly from the terminals. Deputies can send information from the ToughBooks to the Sheriff dispatch as incidents take place. In the past, deputies had to bring all the paperwork into the office and then staff in administration had to manually input the information into the systems.
In the event that the car’s wireless connection cannot make a connection, the system automatically searches for signals throughout the day and when it does get reconnected all information is immediately uploaded to the system back in Montrose, all while the deputies are still on the road.
Conlee said technology is also out there for public safety officials that allows vehicles to connect to whatever signal is available in the area. The new system is also linked to mapping systems, which has multiple benefits including where other deputies and troopers in the area are located for strategic purposes. It allows BOLOS or ‘Be On the Look Outs’ to be sent via messages to the vehicles so deputies always have that information at hand in visual form.
Tickets and accident reports can be issued directly from the printers in the vehicles, which Conlee said is one of the big wins.
He said once all the deputies are fully trained it will take a 10-12 minute citation time down to about four minutes. Sheriff Stacy Weber said the real value in the terminals probably hasn’t been determined yet.
“Ask me that again in a couple months,” Weber said. “This is all so new. We know what it’s capabilities are but we want the deputies to have time to get used to them and then we’re really be able to see the true value of these.”
The cost of the computers was wedged into the sheriff’s department budget for this fiscal year and in March Conlee had the vendor selected and in front of the supervisors. Supervisors requested the sheriff’s department put together a bid package for the work and then in June the contract was awarded to Keltek Inc. of Baxter, Iowa.
The terminals are heavy-duty construction for the terrain deputy cruisers may encounter and are fully functional at temperatures as low as -48. The county will carry a three-year lease on the equipment with an option to buy at the end of the lease agreement.