An electronic ticketing system for traffic citations that was approved by the City Council in April is on the verge of being implemented by the Tulsa Police Department.
The department will begin testing the units around Monday, Oct. 19, according to Capt. Jonathan Brooks who said officers will be testing two hand-held models to see which works best, along with two models of printers.
"We're in a testing phase, and once we decide on that, we'll move forward on the purchase of 50 hand-held units," he said.
Brooks said the units would be tested for two to four weeks, and the ensuing purchase of the 50 units would be made based on the recommendation of the officers. He declined to estimate when the 50 units might be available for officers to use.
The e-ticket devices are designed to make citation writing a much faster and easier proposition for officers, reducing a 20-minute traffic stop to as little as five minutes, according to some proponents of the system. Each device has a bar-code reader through which a driver's license is scanned, recording all the motorist's information without the officer having to register it by hand. The information would be automatically filed at the City Clerk's Office, saving city employees the time of recording it and all but eliminating mistakes. An accompanying printer would allow the officer to provide the motorist with a hard copy of the citation.
Electronic ticketing has been adopted by various law enforcement agencies around the country, including Cleveland, Miami-Dade County, Tucson, Los Angeles and San Jose. District 7 City Councilor John Eagleton, who championed the measure authorizing the purchase of the units, said he has received positive reports about the recent implementation of an e-ticketing system in nearby Sand Springs.
The program comes at a price tag of $451,000 and is financed by unallocated funds from previous third-penny sales tax and general-obligation bond programs. Each unit costs about $3,500, Eagleton said.
Brooks said implementing the devices has required a great deal of paperwork and testing to ensure compatibility between the devices and computer systems at Municipal Court and the City Prosecutor's Office, assuring that each agency can access an identical image of the citation. But once the system is in place, it should result in less paperwork, not more, he said.
The 12 test units will be put in the hands of motorcycle and dedicated traffic officers, he said. He said upgrades that are planned for the department's patrol cars soon will allow the computers in those vehicles to be compatible with the e-ticket system, greatly increasing its usability by all members of the department.
Brooks said the planned implementation of the devices was not terribly well received initially, but officers are coming around.
"At first, we're like any other organization, in that we're resistant to change," he said. "But as officers see the capability of these devices and see the time it will save them, they change their mind. We're very excited about using these new units."
Eagleton, who advocated for the purchase of the devices long before the council finally voted to go along with his proposal earlier this year, is happy to see the system become a reality.
"It's a beneficial idea whose time has come," he said, noting that the ease of using the system should result in more citations being issued, which will have a positive impact on the city's revenue stream. He hopes the devices will pay for themselves in short order while promoting greater safety.
"E-tickets will save lives," he said, adding that he believes Tulsa can cut in half the number of traffic fatalities that occur within its borders each year with proper traffic enforcement. "If that's the only thing I accomplish on the City Council, I'm happy for that to be my legacy."
Share this article: