Police receive laptop lessons

COVINGTON – With local law enforcement agencies beginning to incorporate new forms of technology into their daily routines, officers from across the county recently attended computer training classes at the Covington Police Department.

The officers were on hand to familiarize themselves with the use of Mobile Data Computers, which are rugged laptop computers that are being implemented by many public safety agencies.

Though the laptops themselves are being purchased by the various agencies, the software, Spillman Technologies Public Safety Software, was purchased by the county using special purpose local option sales tax funds allocated for the public safety data interoperability project, according to Mike Smith, director of the Covington-Newton County 911 Center.

Smith said that the computers and software will give law enforcement officers and other first responders improved information flow between dispatch and other public safety agencies, as well as decrease their overall response times.

“It will lessen (deputies') dependence on dispatch,” Newton County Sheriff Joe Nichols said. (The 911 center) is just like we are and everyone else is in Newton County theyve got more to do than they can. So (deputies) will now be able to do some things without having to bother the dispatchers to do it.”

Traditionally, officers would have to take written notes and go back to their office to complete reports, but Smith said that officers will now be able to take their computers to the scene of an accident or crime and complete their reports on the spot.

“(The computers) are allowing us to maximize the efficiency of our resources and keep (officers) out on the street where they need to be”, he said.

Because officers will no longer have to clog airwaves by having dispatchers run database checks on things such as tag numbers and drivers licenses, authorities hope that they will be able to prevent even more perpetrators from slipping through the cracks.

“They'll be less reluctant to run checks and consequently, I'm hoping well get more hits on either wanted persons or stolen items,” said Nichols, who indicated that his office has ordered laptops for a majority of the deputies.

Covington Chief of Police Stacey Cotton announced in December that he would be purchasing laptop computers for his departments patrol officers.

The total price tag for the CPD computers, including installation, docking stations and communications software, was $266,658. The chief made the purchases using forfeited drug money, which will not require any additional money to be taken away from the police department's budget.

“We're just excited that were going to take the technology to the next level and are leading our local area in the move toward new technology,” Cotton said in a previous interview with the Citizen.

Newton County EMS and Oxford Police Department have also purchased laptop computers for their personnel.