Friday, December 03, 1999

Cops getting new computer partners

County OKs $5M job to get software rolling

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Computers will be used to put more cops on Hamilton County streets next year.

        Actually, the same number of police officers will just be spending more time on their beats, thanks to an $11.5 million U.S. Department of Justice grant that will put new computers in every police car in the county.

        The personal computers will be used by officers in all of the county's 44 jurisdictions to generate reports in their cruisers and transmit the reports via modem.

        Other functions, such as tapping into federal crime databases, hooking up with digital cameras and swiping driver's licenses with magnetic strips to input data, also will be available with the new computers.

        Hamilton County commissioners took the first step Thursday, when they approved a $5 million contract with IBM that will have the software designed to run the computers.

In all county cruisers
        All 650 cruisers throughout the county will have the new computers by November 2000.

        Tom Russell, manager of the countywide Regional Computer Center, said two to three hours of every officer's eight-hour shift is spent in the office doing paperwork.

        That will be reduced dramatically, and have the effect of putting 500 additional officers on the street, according to calculations made for the grant application.

        Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said the computers are a worthwhile investment — giving the community more police hours on the street without costing taxpayers more in salaries and benefits.

        “Regionalism is the buzzword today, and our police agencies have been taking a regional approach before regionalism was cool,” Mr. Bedinghaus said.

        There will be a significant cost for local jurisdictions.

Chipping in on cost
        The computers will cost about $10,000 for each car, and the local police agencies will have to pick up about 25 percent of that cost.

        In Amberley Village, that will amount to about $12,500 to equip its five police cars. Police Chief John Monahan doesn't think paying the bill will be a problem.

        “We've had enough time to plan it into our budget next year,” he said.

        Chief David Voss, in Cheviot, agreed. “It's equipment we have to have. It adds safety for our police officers and the people on our streets.”

        The new equipment will replace outdated terminals now in cruisers. Those screens allow officers only to access information from federal and state databases, without generating reports.

        Mr. Russell said those terminals, bought five years ago, are outdated and would have had to be replaced next year.

        Some of the $5 million in local matching funds needed to get the federal grant will be paid for out of a special tax levy already approved.


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