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County may overhaul police reporting system (05/26/2013)
By Sarah Squires

Winona County may lend money to cities for police laptops

On Tuesday, Winona County leaders will consider a $381,000 law enforcement reporting system that would serve the Winona County Sheriff's Department, District Court, and all city law enforcement agencies in the county.

Under the plan, the county would pay for the system, and city police departments would only have to agree to use the new system and allow staff members to be trained for the program. Additionally, in response to concerns from the city of Goodview that its squad car laptops are too old to run the computer software, as well as the fact that St. Charles Police squad cars currently do not have laptops at all, County Administrator Duane Hebert will pitch an idea to the County Board to provide a loan program for cities to borrow money from the county to purchase new squad car laptops.

The new reporting system has been on local law enforcement wish lists for decades. The upgrade would allow law enforcement officials to view reports from neighboring agencies quickly, and provide efficiencies by maintaining that database as cases travel from police cars to the courthouse.

Under the current system, criminal data is manually entered into multiple systems using processes that include dozens of steps. With the new software program, data would be entered into one computerized master file that could be accessed by police on the street, courthouse officials and other criminal justice agencies. County Board members were informed earlier this month that the upgrade would also help eliminate data errors that result from such frequent needs for manual data entry, would help the county comply with a mandate for the use of electronic criminal citations systems, and reduce the amount of paper used by law enforcement agencies.

Hebert approached city councils in the county with the concept, asking that they agree to use the new program and allow staff members to be trained to use the system. Goodview Police Chief Kent Russell expressed concerns that his department's older laptops would not be able to run the new system.

"If you need to upgrade, we would go back to the County Board and see about some type of loan so you don't have to try to adjust your budget this year, and we can get this going as soon as possible," Hebert told Russell.

Additionally, Hebert has urged cities to agree to implement the new system soon, as the current $381,000 bid requires the county to sign on to the agreement in the coming weeks. He told the Goodview City Council that, if the deal expires, cities may be asked to provide funding for the reporting system upgrade. "We don't want to rush anything, but we kind of think it might be easier to say 'yes' if there's no cost to the city," he said.  


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