By KELLY PETRYSZYN
AMHERST — When Jacob Morris was hired at Lorain Police Department seven and a half years ago, a colleague advised him to buy manila folders and stuff all the reference material he could into a duffel bag to stash in his cruiser.
Now he’s ditched the duffel bag, and replaced it with a smart phone, holding more information than ever filled his file folders.
“As a police officer, it helps you find things quicker and take action quicker,” said Morris, now a detective, said about how the smart phone has changed his job.
The smart phone has become a mobile toolbox for officers, eliminating the need to bring a camera, tape recorder, GPS or file folders on the road. In particular, Ohio Cop application is condensing all the resources police use to a single app that is accessed with a tap of their fingertips.
Amherst Detective Zac Horning said the app and others on his iPhone save him time and effort when out on the road.
“It just makes it easier, the more you can know, the right then and there, the better,” he said.
Horning said word of the Ohio cop app spread like wildfire around the police station. “Just about everybody here has it. Once somebody got it, they spread the word,” he said. The department pays for phone service for supervisors and detectives, but they have to buy their own phone and any apps that go along with it.
Frustrated with lack of legal knowledge amongst law enforcement officers, Columbus law enforcement officer Mark Brooks developed The Ohio Cop app to educate officers, Brooks wrote on his website. He also developed a U.S. Cop app to assist officers in other states across the nation. The app is loaded with information about Ohio laws, warrants, training and law enforcement news. The app is packed with handy tools such as an Internet address convertor that allows officers to trace an IP address back to a location. The app also has a mobile link to OH-LEG, Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway. The mobile portal allows officers to look up driver license photos, addresses, license plates and other pieces of information that can lead to an arrest.
“When we’re in the field, it comes in handy if we’re looking for somebody,” Horning said. “We can find out who owns a vehicle or find out where a person may be at.”
Lorain Police Lt. Mark Carpentiere uses OH-LEG on his smart phone and can remember a time in the 1990s when officers had to write a letter to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Columbus to get a driver’s license photo mailed to them in two to three weeks to investigate a suspect. After that, officers still had to go back to the station to pick up a photo and then take it to the scene to ID suspects. Now OH-LEG mobile eliminates the car trip and the frustration. “It’s so nice to be able to pull up a picture or get an address,” Carpentiere said.
As a detective, Morris spends a lot of time out on the road. The app allows him to conduct an interview, gather evidence and type up the report at the scene. That way, he can type up the report while he’s doing surveillance or sitting in court, so his desk work is done by the time he gets back to the office.
“I can spend more time in the field investigating things or making contact with a suspect,” Morris said. He added that he can use tools such as the evidence camera to label and time stamp evidence photos and then send them back to his computer. That way, he doesn’t have to waste time at his desk back at the office.
Morris has also ditched carrying around drug reference books and now uses his phone to ID illegal pills. Years ago, officers had to take pills seized from suspects to a pharmacy, to the station or call Poison Control to determine their identity. Now with the help of the Ohio Cop app, police can type in the number on the pill, color and shape and immediately learn if it is a illegal substance.
Morris likes that the app aggregates content that is already out there. “There’s no secret stuff,” he said. “Everything is public record that helps a police officer became more efficient at their job.”
Horning said the smart phone in general can help make arrests speedier. If an officer catches up with a shoplifting suspect and wants to verify its the right person, the officer came snap a photo, email it to an officer with the witnesses and have witnesses identify the suspect.
Other apps are helpful, too. Morris uses tape a talk to replace a recorder and Quick Office to replace a computer to type reports.
With a quarter of the population being Hispanic in Lorain, Horning uses Google Translate to type a question in English and have it converted to Spanish. If you turn the phone sideways, the word gets bigger, making it easier to read. Horning said there’s also a button that plays audio of the Spanish translation. The department has a volunteer interpreter, but when the person is not available, Horning said using his iPhone is a good idea. He also uses a Vehicle Identification app that allows him to ID the year, make and color of a vehicle. Overall the smart phone is increasing efficiency and allowing officers to take action quicker that can lead to arrests quicker than before. “It gives you more at your fingertips than you had before,” Horning said.
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