Computers Bringing Police Files to Cop Cars in Chicago: "Squad Cars of The Future"
By Fran Spielman, The Associated Press
Chicago Police officers will no longer have to return to the station to access 5 million mug shots and other computerized crime information, under a long-awaited plan unveiled Tuesday to turn 1,200 police vehicles into "squad cars of the future."
With help from a $9 million federal Homeland Security grant, wireless portable data terminals similar to those the Defense Department used in the sands of Iraq will be installed in Chicago Police squad cars by December 2005.
The mobile units will give police officers on the street instant access to I-CLEAR, the computerized data warehouse that allows them to search for suspects based on nicknames, tattoos, country of origin, vehicle make and model and other characteristics.
The files contain everything from information on gang membership and a history of previous police calls at an address to crime reports, arrest warrants and citations and vital homeland security information, including watch lists and terrorism alerts.
Cutting down on paperwork
Police officers will be able to show mug shots to crime victims while they remain at a crime scene. And they'll be able to enter case reports into the system from their vehicles, quickly disposing of the paperwork that drives cops to distraction.
Police Supt. Phil Cline knows only too well how that feels.
"When I was a young detective, simply getting a mug shot of a wanted offender could take up to several hours," Cline said.
"It's no longer acceptable that the bosses and the inside people are the only ones who use I-CLEAR. These tools must be available to every man and woman on the street, so they can make a real impact on crime," he said.
More details on 911 calls
Ron Huberman, executive director of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said the difference between the outdated computers already in squad cars and the new ones to be installed over the next year are "like night and day."
The upgrade brings Chicago "one step closer to the mayor's vision of the squad car of the future."
The squad car computers will be supplemented by a new computer-aided dispatch system that will provide officers with more detailed information before they respond to 911 calls.
The calls that appear on their screens will be color-coded, with emergency or so-called Priority One calls highlighted in red.
Pop-ups will appear if the alleged offender is believed to be armed and dangerous.
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