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Software could help Walworth County cops be more efficient

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Kayla Bunge
July 26, 2009

Three Walworth County police departments plan to use grant money to buy computer software that will allow officers to complete accident reports and citations in their squad cars.


The Delavan, Lake Geneva and Whitewater police chiefs believe the technology will make their departments more efficient, leaving officers more time to patrol the streets and dispatchers more time to handle emergency calls.


“Anything we can do improve the efficiency of our officers is a good thing,” said Whitewater Police Chief Jim Coan, who took the lead in applying for the grant. “This will free up time to engage in other public safety-related duties.”


The BadgerTraCS software is offered by the state Department of Transportation and is used by 180 agencies across the state, including the Wisconsin State Patrol, the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department and the Milwaukee Police Department, said Erin Egan, chief of citations and withdrawals at the DOT.


Law enforcement agencies have been using the software since 2005, she said.


The BadgerTraCS software, installed on the computers in police squad cars, includes 10 forms that officers can fill out electronically, Egan said. The forms include traffic citations, municipal citations, warnings, accident reports and drunken-driving incident reports, she said.


The software pulls driver and vehicle information from a state database and automatically fills in the forms, Egan said. The software also includes a list of state statutes searchable by statute number or keyword, such as “speeding,” she said.


“It decreases the amount of errors we have in our data because we’re defining what (information) they can pick from,” she said.


The BadgerTraCS software allows officers to replicate citations, Egan said. For example, if a driver is stopped for speeding but also is not wearing his seat belt, the officer simply would replicate the speeding ticket and change the statute number to reflect the seat-belt violation, saving time, she said.


The software also allows officers to print citations for drivers and to send electronic citations to the DOT, Egan said.


“It helps the whole process go a lot faster,” she said.


The Delavan, Lake Geneva and Whitewater departments recently received a $38,000 law enforcement assistance grant to buy the software. The three police chiefs decided it was something all of their departments could use.


“We’re catching up with technology,” Lake Geneva Police Chief Michael Rasmussen said. “As law enforcement, we’re so far behind.”


The software will cut time officers and secretaries spend entering citation and crash information because it can be downloaded from BadgerTraCS to department databases, he said.


“We’re getting rid of bunch of steps, a bunch of duplication,” Rasmussen said. “We’re streamlining the process to make it easier and more efficient.”


The software will save time for dispatchers, who often assist officers in obtaining driver and vehicle information, Delavan Police Chief Tim O’Neill said.


“It relieves our 911 operators from performing a lot of those tasks …” he said. “Dispatchers won’t have to do that over the radio, and they can dedicate themselves to emergency phone calls.”


The DOT is working on additional applications for the BadgerTraCS software, including a form for misdemeanor offenses and a mapping tool that would give location information for incident reports, Egan said.


The software also could be used to meet a new requirement that police officers collect traffic-stop data to be analyzed for racial profiling, she said.



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