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After Three-Year Wait, Durham Police Log On To Laptops

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DURHAM — It took three years and the threat of a lawsuit, but Durham's police cars are finally getting wired. City workers are installing laptop computers in all of the department's patrol cars.

The computers could help Durham police officers do more police work and less paperwork. The laptops give officers instant access to information they now have to call a dispatcher for.

"Now [they] can go back to the car, run the plate, know who they're dealing with and who the owner of the car is. What would have been a 25 minute vehicle stop will now take five, 10 minutes," says Lt. Ed Sarvis of the Durham Police Department.

A trainer from HTE is teaching officers how to use the computers this week. The department bought the system from the company in 1997 for a million dollars.

It took three years to work out glitches in the software. The company threw in half a million dollars worth of upgrades, like wireless Internet access.

The computers could make the police department virtually paperless.

"They can collect whatever they'd normally collect on a written form," says trainer Kathy Ray. "Our software gives them a program they can define to get the information they currently use in the agency."

Officers can also take the laptops out of their cars and use them to write reports and log information at crime scenes.

The police department hopes one day to be able to issue laptops to every officer along with their guns and badges.


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