In a collaborative effort between the Piatt County Sheriff’s Office and the Piatt County Circuit Clerk’s Office, Piatt County is now operating an electronic traffic citation system.
The overall improvements benefit both departments, but both Piatt County Sheriff Mark Vogelzang and Piatt County Circuit Clerk Seth E. Floyd are quick to point out the most important benefit in their minds:
“One of the main benefit to our deputies will be that they are spending less time parked on the side of an often very busy road writing a warning or a citation. Over the years we have seen drivers across the country who do not slow down and move over or are driving distracted. Often times these drivers strike the officer who is working an accident or completing a traffic stop. This can potentially be fatal for that driver, the officer, and / or the person who has been stopped by the officer. By decreasing the time an officer is on the side of the road completing a traffic stop, you reduce this exposure,” says Vogelzang.
Says Floyd, “Number one, above any other benefit that this will have in process improvement or cost savings, is that the deputies will be able to greatly reduce the duration of a traffic stop. In Piatt County, that often times means getting them off the side of a two-lane road where there isn’t a designated shoulder or safe parking area. To me, you cannot put a dollar amount on doing everything we can to assist our law enforcement officers and find ways to make their jobs safer.”
Phase one of the project—which was funded by American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds—set up the software in both the Circuit Clerk’s Office (which processes citations), and the Sheriff’s Office which had a more complex install interfacing with their existing case management software. Both offices commented that the set up and rollout has been very smooth.
Additionally, the sheriff’s office then had the installation of the hardware components in their squad cars. Each patrol vehicle was furnished with equipment for deputies to scan driver’s licenses so that a driver’s information can auto-populate onto a citation or warning, replacing the decades long process of handwriting each citation on a carbonless-type traffic ticket. There are no longer any handwritten aspects on the ticket meaning that once the officer has completed the digital citation on their in-car computer, they simply print off the offender copies on their in-car printer.
The Sheriff acknowledges that there is great benefit to having the digital copies. “A benefit to all involved in the process is that the e-citations are much clearer. Often, handwriting might be illegible. Trying to write through multiple copies is often difficult resulting in the bottom copies being hard to read. By using e-citations, everyone has a typed copy that is very easy to read. It also creates less work on the approval process and sending them to the Circuit Clerk as it is all electronic.”
Floyd added that he is pleased with the overall progress made. “A daily data migration from the law enforcement agency to the Circuit Clerk’s Office gives us everything we need to manage a citation and set up its case here. Not having to decipher small and sometimes hurried handwriting also allows us to more accurately and timely complete our end of the process with simple clicks instead of initiating the entire case manually. We have made this a paperless operation on our end which aligns with our overall goals to reduce the amount of paper used and we have increased the amount of processing done in an automated medium, saving time and manpower.”
With this latest tech addition there is also the underlying benefit that can help the sheriff’s office better attract candidates during a time when recruiting new officers has been problematic for many agencies across the country. “I think anything a department can do to improve officer safety and efficiency will attract potential new hires to their department. These technological advances help officers be safer and more efficient while providing safety and security for our community,” Vogelzang stated.
While Piatt County’s phase is complete, the entire project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 when hardware is installed in Monticello Police Department vehicles giving both law enforcement agencies equal capabilities to issue digital citations.