A new system in Georgia’s Camden County lets officers at its three law enforcement agencies request — and receive — warrants in the field.
The movement to an online system happened largely by accident, according to a report in the National Association of Counties’ County News. Camden County Judge Jennifer Lewis wanted to transition the county’s warrant system online, but held off for several years due to budget constraints.
Through the program, which is supported largely through Skype, officers can communicate with judges anywhere — as long as they have access to an Internet connection — to request a warrant.
“When an officer is driving to the courthouse to get a warrant, he’s not able to serve the community in his official capacity,” Lewis said. “Our cities’ police departments are understaffed as it is, they can’t afford to have their officers leave their jurisdictions to get warrants. It’s a matter of proper utilization of taxpayer dollars.”
Once an officer requests a warrant, it is issued not just to the officer: The system notifies the county jail and 911 center. Through this process, jails can begin preparing for the bonding process upon receipt of the warrant — allowing alleged offenders to post bail bonds more quickly.
“Inmates can make their bond arrangements with the jail, rather than waiting for the arresting officer to fill out the paperwork, which could take a day or so, given how busy the officer is,” Lewis said. “It could save the jail a day’s worth of housing and feeding an inmate.” She said it also makes it easier for judges.
The case management program that supports the video-based request for warrant system cost the county $10,000. The county will pay a $250 monthly maintenance fee. The county also bought desk-mounted video cameras, scanners and iPads to add to the already-existing line of equipment officers, judges and officials use with the new system.
And while adoption may have not been easy, Lewis said the county has welcomed the new process into its operations.
“Change is usually problematic, but the program is very user friendly, and once the officers realized the ease and the time savings, they all embraced it,” Lewis said.
Municipalities across the country appear to be more moving toward digital case management for public safety. Some departments have deployed systems that allow police to document crime data from the scene.