Connecting patrol cars to an electronic library of mugshots, criminal histories and countless other emergency resources is less than a year away, now that Douglas County Sheriff's Office is cleared for buying the necessary equipment.
Douglas County commissioners say the sheriff can spend $122,000 in county funds to purchase base computers and antennas to run the system, plus laptop data ports for 13 patrol cars.
The system -- once other departments hook on -- will allow area police, sheriff's and fire departments to exchange sensitive and detailed information through radio frequencies and wireless broadband connections, Sheriff Rick Trapp said.
Officers will be able to write and transmit reports from their cars; firefighters will be able to view maps of hydrant locations on the way to a fire; and dispatchers will be able to transmit detailed descriptions and photos of missing children to responders on the road.
"It's the largest advance in emergency communications since the two-way radio, and that came out in the 1940s," Trapp said. "It'll have a significant impact and allow us to provide more efficient, more effective service."
Law enforcement officials expect each officer connected to the system to save about 2.5 hours per shift, according to a study conducted by emergency officials in the area. Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical hopes to shave 30 minutes of work from each of the average 24 calls it receives each day.
Money for the project comes from the fund that collects fees on customers' telephone bills to improve 911 emergency services. The $122,000 will be added to the $106,000 already taken from the fund for the project; the total will be added to a $318,500 grant.
The new system should be operational by the end of the year, Trapp said. The department will start buying equipment in the next several weeks; installation and training will follow.
Bob Johnson, commission chairman, said he expected the investment to pay off through increased efficiency and improved safety.
The system also will bring the county up to date. Aside from the Lawrence area, all the state's other 10 largest communities already are equipped with such mobile-date systems.
"We don't have any choice," Johnson said.