ROACHDALE -- Town Marshal Mike Mahoy's police car is one of the first in the county to be outfitted with a Mobile Data Computer system (MDC) that gives him access from his vehicle to much of the same information the emergency dispatch center has.
Officers can use the system to run driver's license and registration queries in the car without relying on dispatch, as well as create reports in the field and relay directions and location information.
Emergency Operations Center Director Dave Costin says, the computers will save time on relaying information, provide clearer data and cut down on radio traffic.
"It helps with dispatchers being less distracted, too," said Costin. "Sometimes they are so busy running queries for officers that they get distracted. People on the phone will get better attention and officers will get better information faster."
There is a panic button with the system that allows an officer who needs aid to punch it. Dispatch receives it and sends backup. During a traffic stop if an officer doesn't respond within five minutes, an alarm sounds on the dispatcher's screen and they call to check on the officer.
Information about a location officers are entering is also available through the system.
"It's mostly medical, but there is also information like there might be a gas tank on the side of the house," explained Costin. "There are a lot of safety devices with this system. Officers will be safer and can work more effectively."
With the MDC, officers can access location information, directions, a list of times and other information related to the calls. They will also be able to type a report while still at the location and relay it back to dispatch or print it in their vehicles if they have portable printers.
Being able to type a description on location as opposed to relying on memory allows officers to be more descriptive and thorough.
The system will save time on everyday tasks. Costin says the ability to run license plates and driver's licenses on the system will save a lot of time for both dispatchers and officers.
In the case of a large incident, the MCD allows agencies to work together on assignments and share information without excessive use of the radio.
It allows silent and secure communications among units. It automatically notifies other logged-in laptops and dispatch of emergencies.
Software for the systems is provided by the Emergency Operations Center, but police and sheriff departments have to buy the laptops for each vehicle plus an air card.
"The cost is less than $1,000 a car," said Mahoy.
He and Costin have been working on getting the system operating and training officers. Bainbridge, Fillmore and Roachdale all have at least one car operating with the new laptop systems. DePauw University police already have their cars equipped with the MCD.
Costin hopes to have all the local police forces up and running on the new system soon. They are in various stages of acquiring the necessary equipment.