When law enforcement officers make an arrest for a DWI, they must fill out as many as 18 forms, depending on the circumstances. That’s according to Jill Oliveira, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
“There’s a lot of repetition of data entered, and it’s all done manually,” Oliveira said.
But many police officers are now spending more time on the streets and less time in the office doing paperwork thanks to an electronic charging and DWI processing system.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension developed the “eCharging” and “eDWI” system and is in the process of implementing it at law enforcement agencies throughout the state. A combination of state and federal funds are paying for the project, so the bureau offers the programs and training at no cost to local agencies.
The Brooklyn Park Police received the eCharging system last summer and implemented the eDWI component in December.
Lorelei Meyer, support services manager for the Brooklyn Park Police, says the systems are working well.
“It’s getting the officers back out on the street a lot faster … which is what we want,” Meyer said.
To process a single criminal complaint (the official document used in charging a crime) under the old system, papers had to pass from the police to the prosecutor and back to the police before going to a judge for a signature and then to another party in the court system for completion.
The electronic systems save time and money by eliminating repetitive data entry, allowing authorities to sign documents electronically and removing the need for physically transporting papers from one agency to another.
“Before it could take days or weeks to process (a criminal complaint),” Meyer said. Now, she said, it could be done in half an hour, if necessary.
With up to 18 required forms, filling out DWI paperwork took an average of 75 minutes, but the eDWI system drops the processing time to less than 10 minutes, Oliveira said.
When electronically processing a DWI, an officer answers a series of questions that allow the system to automatically determine which forms are needed. After the officer types routine data once, such as the suspect’s name address and birth date, the application copies that information into all the forms. It even queries a statewide database automatically to determine if the suspect has a previous DWI.
Meyer said another benefit is the arrests get attached to a person’s criminal history much more quickly, so officers can easily find out if a suspect has a recent citation for a DWI.
The increases in speed and accuracy don’t come at the cost of security. The same signatures are required, but they can be done electronically, which requires verification using a fingerprint reader.
Forty-seven of Minnesota’s 87 counties currently use eCharging to file criminal complaints, and 43 counties process DWI paperwork with the eDWI forms. The majority of law enforcement agencies in Hennepin County use at least part of the system.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension aims to implement the programs statewide by the end of 2014.
Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]