GATESVILLE — Law enforcement officers in Central Texas have become more reliant on information technology and computer software in the fight against crime.
The Copperas Cove Police Department got a technological boost in October with the addition of mobile data terminals in patrol units, said Sgt. Martin Ruiz, a spokesman for the department.
“The MDTs are very helpful now that the officers can run driver’s licenses, license plates, local warrants, and can see where all the other officers are within the city,” Ruiz said.
The computers also allow officers to get vital information on individuals they seek, which is good for officer safety, he said.
With officers equipped with MDTs, the workload for communications officers decreased, he said, leaving them free to handle daily calls as well as 911 calls.
“The officers can also complete their reports on the MDTs thus keeping them on the road having more of a presence out in the public,” Ruiz said. “Right now, the department has enough equipment to do the tasks at hand. We are always getting new equipment, so we do not have a wish list.”
Gatesville Police Chief Nathan Gohlke said keeping up with the tools of the trade are vital elements in law enforcement.
“Equipment and technology needs in any law enforcement agency rank extremely high,” he said. “Equipment includes vehicles, weaponry, computers and even software.”
Frequent upgrades can be costly, and Gohlke said he tries to get the most from the gear his department already has.
“The main priority for GPD is to maintain the equipment that we currently have,” he said. “Each year, we continue to upgrade our vehicle fleet, including equipment, as well as make improvements to software and other components that help us accomplish our mission.”
Gohlke called today’s patrol vehicle “a roaming office” with computers and radio gear to keep officers connected with the dispatcher and with each other while in the field.
The vehicles also are equipped with camera systems, radar and emergency lighting.
Sophisticated computer hardware and software enable police investigators to search databases for case-specific information to help solve crimes, Gohlke said, but the systems must be kept updated to remain effective.
“Unfortunately, because city budgets cannot include every need or want, law enforcement agencies, especially smaller agencies, often fall behind the curve,” he said.
When Coryell County elected officials make their budget requests to county commissioners this week, Sheriff Johnny Burks will include a $21,500 item to upgrade his department’s radio system, including the installation of a radio tower.
Due to equipment failures in the past year, Burks said his department lost radio communications for 48 hours and had to use the Gatesville Fire Department channel while the system was repaired.
Burks’ budget also includes $9,000 to replace the department’s computer server.
“The server we have now has become out of date and does not have enough memory for all the information that is stored in the system,” Burks said.