Garden Grove

Tablets putting more GG cops on street

GARDEN GROVE PD Officer Steve Ortiz takes evidence photos using a camera built-in to the same tablet he uses to write a police report in the field. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GARDEN GROVE PD Officer Steve Ortiz takes evidence photos using a camera built-in to the same tablet he uses to write a police report in the field. (Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC).

By Greg Hardesty

 Someone jacked six planter lights from a flowerbed in the front yard of a Garden Grove home. The 911 call wasn’t exactly fodder for headline news, but a crime had been committed. Misdemeanor vandalism. Total monetary loss? $100.

It was time for the Garden Grove police officer to write his report. In the past, the officer would have had to go back to the station to write it, using notes taken at the scene. Or the officer would have had to type up the report on a computer permanently mounted on the dashboard inside his or her patrol car. No longer.

When it comes to writing reports, GGPD patrol officers are going mobile.

In an effort to allows its officers to work more efficiently in the field, the agency is in the process of rolling out tablets — portable and durable Windows-based computers for officers to use while on calls. The tablets, tested by 12 patrol officers over the last several weeks, will be given to all of the department’s officers over the coming months. The upgrade is part of the Garden Grove PD’s comprehensive new computer software system developed by Spillman Technologies the debuted in September 2015.

Spillman is a fully integrated system that controls every function performed at the station and via patrol vehicles, including dispatch, records management, report writing, evidence, mobile communications and crime analysis.

On a recent weekday, Officer Ralph Lee — selected to test the tablet and provide feedback so bugs could be worked out and tweaks made — showed how the tablet works as he patrolled the city’s northeast, an area with relatively low crime, lots of homes and a concentration of schools, including Garden Grove High.

The GGPD considered making the computers in patrol cars detachable but concluded that didn’t fit the agency’s needs. Lee laughed when asked if he was selected to test the tablet because of his age. The three-year GGPD officer, who started at the agency as a cadet, is 24.

GGPD Officer R. Lee directs traffic safely around the screen of an automobile accident. (Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC)

GGPD Officer R. Lee directs traffic safely around the screen of an automobile accident.
(Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC)

Key suggestions Lee made to make the tablets better: make the screen bigger and enlarge the font size, and allow the tablets to operate reliably from more than 100 feet from secure wifi connections in patrol cars. Lee works the swing shift, the 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. slot known as the “paper shift” because of the high volume of report writing. Six officers at a time work the swing shift, supplanting the 12 officers on day shift who get off at 6 p.m. before the officers on night shift report to work.

Garden Grove PD officers keep the tablets in their patrol cars and don’t carry them out at first when they respond to a call. Should things go south on a call, having a tablet in their hand wouldn’t be smart. “They’re useful when it comes to stagnant calls,” said Officer Brian Hatfield, referring to calls that have been deemed to not present any immediate danger.

Hatfield is one of the 12 officers who have been using the tablets for more than a month, said Lt. Tom DaRe. He said the tablets allow patrol officers to write reports quicker and stay in the field more, which translates to more effective policing. Lee went Code 3 (emergency response, lights and sirens on) to a traffic collision involving a motorcyclist. Mercifully, the motorcyclist escaped relatively unscathed, the two parties exchange insurance and other information, and no police report was taken.

On the next call, Lee joined Officer Steve Ortiz on the mysterious case of the stolen planter lights. Then the officers showed how easy it was to fill out a report on the tablet. Ortiz dismantled the screen and used it as a camera to take several photos of where the pilfered lights used to be. He then went back to his tablet, which he placed on the back hood of the victim’s car in the driveway, and uploaded the pictures directly into the report.

Before, officers used digital cameras to take photos in the field. They then would take out the SIM card, put it in a tiny envelope and seal it, and then hand the envelope over to a GGPD forensic specialist to process and attach the pictures to the police report. That time-sucking step now has been eliminated. And patrol cops like Ortiz and Lee are spending more time where they are needed most:

On the streets of Garden Grove.

This article is provided to the Orange County Tribune by arrangement with Behind the Badge, a site dedicated to cover news, issues and practices of law enforcement. For more, go to www.behindthebadge.com .

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