Instant Warrants Save Officer Travel Time
Getting a warrant used to mean seeing a judge in a robe — either judicial, in a courtroom, or a bathrobe, after hours — but a new online system has put an end to that and made work easier for police officers and sheriff ’s deputies in Camden County, Ga.
Now officers from the county’s three law enforcement agencies can get warrants on the go, dramatically cutting transit time needed to do their jobs.
Judge Jennifer Lewis wanted to transition the warrant system online, but for years the software was too expensive. While discussing credit card transactions with a vendor, however, the conversation drifted to another vendor who offered a program within the county’s budget.
“We basically stumbled into it by accident,” Lewis said. “It was a great accident.”
The program allows officers to communicate with judges anywhere they have an Internet connection — via Skype — to have a warrant issued. This saves the officer a trip to the courthouse that could take an hour and most likely take them out of their jurisdiction — effectively making them temporary couriers, rather than officers of the law.
“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.”
It also means fewer nighttime distractions for judges.
“Everything is faster now because it’s instantaneous,” Lewis said.
Since the program became operational in July 2014 through the end of August 2015, the county has issued 2,820 warrants electronically, and it’s the only way to do business now.
Once a warrant is issued, it is routed not just to the officer, but also to the county jail and the 911 center and warrants division, which allows the jail to begin preparing bonding procedures immediately.
“That means 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.”
On top of that, because the program also allows for remote bond hearings, it frees up the three staff members and the time it takes to prepare and transport an inmate to the courthouse, which not only adds complexity to the process but also the chance for escape or incident.
The case management program cost $10,000 to purchase, plus a $250 monthly maintenance fee. In addition, Camden County bought desk-mounted video cameras, computer scanners and iPads to augment the video equipment already in operation.
Those 2,820 warrants that were secured electronically saved countless gallons of gas and time are spent on making long trips to the courthouse.
“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.
County Innovations and Solutions features award-winning programs. “Magistrate Court Streamlines Arrest Warrant/First Appearance Hearing with New Electronic Warrant Process” was named best in category among court administration and management programs in the 2015 NACo Achievement Awards.Hero 1