How eCitations improve police officer safety
While PDs spend a lot of effort training officers on safe traffic stop tactics, one solution is to minimize the time officers actually spend engaged in traffic stops
By Joseph J. Kolb, MA
Every police officer will say there is no such thing as a “routine traffic stop.” And rightfully so. Traffic stops are among the most dangerous parts of an officer’s job. Sudden shootings can occur during traffic stops and officers can be struck at the side of the road. While police departments spend a lot of time and money on training officers on safe traffic stop tactics, one solution is to minimize the time officers actually spend engaged in traffic stop activities.
In August 2017, Fort Worth police officer Matthew Lesell was struck by an alleged drunk driver while executing a traffic stop on another vehicle. Miraculously Lesell survived. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reports that from 2008-2017, 53 officers were shot and killed while conducting traffic stops and from 2008-2017, 17 officers were struck and killed while conducting traffic stops
The use of eCitations can be a major step toward preventing many of these tragedies from being repeated and the technology is gaining interest.
A 2015 report from the Minnesota Judicial Branch found that 83 percent of responding law enforcement agencies were interested in transitioning to ecitations.
Steve Rauschenberger, executive director of the eCitation Coalition – which is active in 12 states informing state and local elected and appointed leaders about the benefits of eCitation technology – says based on their assessment from the court systems, the vast majority of large departments in the United States use e-Citation for both traffic and parking enforcement, and some municipalities are using similar technology for code enforcement.
Traffic stop safety
Time is of the essence in mitigating threats to a police officer during a traffic stop, either from the driver of the pulled over vehicle or other drivers on the road who are either impaired or inattentive, or because of bad road or visibility conditions.
The key element in eCitation-related officer safety benefits boils down to the time the officer is out of the protection of their vehicle. An eCitation typically takes less than five minutes to complete as opposed to a written citation that could take as long as 20 minutes. This can dramatically reduce officer exposure to vehicle driver/occupants who might opt for a violent resolution or other drivers on the road.
When it comes to effective data collection while streamlining the time to accumulate and disseminate it, eCitations can be an officer’s best friend.
Eliminated will be illegible handwriting, spelling mistakes, smudged data from wet citation pads and improper statute entry, to name a few costly factors that can result in a dismissal.
Speed of completing a citation is quick and the transfer of the document to the court is instantaneous mitigating administrative time and errors on both ends of the process.
eCitations can be a useful adjunct to enhance officer efficiency, safety, reliability of the citation to uphold in court. The caveat is that while officer exposure to drive/passenger and highway dynamics is minimized, it is not eliminated and sound tactics and vigilance are still necessary.
About the author
Joseph J. Kolb, MA, is the executive director for the Southwest Gang Information Center, master instructor for the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy and instructor in the Criminal Justice program at Western New Mexico University.