Kansas Highway Patrol Drives Digital

Screenshot 2014-01-21 09.23.58   By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor

Back in 1933, when bank robbers ran rampant and crime sprees frequently made the news, the State of Kansas decided to set up a 10-car task force to combat danger on the roads. This initiative evolved into the Kansas Highway Patrol, officially organized four years later to enforce traffic and vehicle laws. Today, the Kansas Highway Patrol has hundreds of vehicles in its fleet to protect and serve the driving public. And, as there are more cars on the highway than ever before, so have the potentials for violations increased. Until recently, however, the paperwork involved for multiple violations was a true pain. Troopers carried two separate ticket books, each about 11-inches long by 3-inches wide, printed on the front and back. If a driver was stopped for speeding, and illegally changing lanes, and was found to not be wearing seatbelt along with not using a turn signal, two violations might be in one book, two in another, resulting in three pieces of paper, which then had to be transferred to a district court. What might be the result? The trooper would fill out the violations found in one book, and let the other minor violations go in the interest of saving time. This resulted in lost revenue. Running out of forms was also inefficient, when additional books had to be retrieved from the station.

The Kansas Highway Patrol decided to implement digiTICKET by Saltus Technologies, a provider of innovative electronic ticketing systems for the public safety market. The goal was to reduce the amount of time needed for officers to issue one or multiple citations, eliminate data errors, and reduce administrative costs. digiTICKET, specifically made for law enforcement agencies, is currently in use in 12 states (primarily mid-west), with a quickly growing customer base. The turn-key solution can be configured to meet the needs of existing equipment, or hardware can be provided, as Saltus works with Brother Mobile Solutions and other vendors.

On the Road

With semi-rugged Dell laptops and Brother Mobile Solutions Pocket Jets installed in each vehicle, state troopers now have electronic ticketing capability across all 105 District Courts in the state. “They are 100% connected, 100% of the time,” said Mark Thurman, CIO, Kansas Highway Patrol, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise. In addition, the laptops can be removed from the car and used in a district office. “It is their primary workstation.” Instead of manually filling out forms in two different books, a trooper can now issue up to six citations, with no limit to the amount of warnings, on a single ticket. (Originally, the system allowed up to eight citations, but to be more user-friendly, with readable fonts, the amount was quickly changed to six.) The Brother Mobile’s Pocket Jet then recreates the ticket in a PDF format to look like an actual ticket and is printed inside the vehicles. (The Pocket Jet is also able to print 8 ½ X 11-sized documents.)

The Age of Digital

Where previously, paper based forms were physically located in a file box, there are now three different ways for courts to get information: log in to a web and access the electronic file, print the PDFs (which smaller county district courts tend to choose) or have a data entry report that mirrors the entry into the court system. It is estimated that 25,000 citations are issued per month and printed to the Pocket Jets. Thurman noted that tracking citations with the old paper-based method was more difficult. It is likely to be in the same ballpark, however, but now the number of violations has definitely gone up, due to being able to include seatbelt use along with speeding, for example.

Going Forward

The implemented solution will continue to increase safety for both the community and law enforcement officers by reducing dangerous roadside time for everyone involved.  And with laws always changing, especially with the advent of smartphones, (in Kansas, drivers may talk but not text), troopers will be on top of current code, not relying on an outdated form. In addition, officer comments can now be annotated for documentation and potential court cases. Most importantly, digiTICKET now interfaces to the Kansas Law Enforcement Reporting (KLER), a justice solution created in 2009 to connect law enforcement agencies across the state. The system provides over 60% of Kansas transportation crash data to the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT).

Can this comprehensive system be used during critical incidents? Criminal activities? State emergencies? “It’s been a building block process,” Thurman said. KLER includes access to DUIs, arrests, tow truck reports, etc, and now with digiTICKET integrated into the system, provides real-time data on both vehicles and people, which can be accessed and shared across agencies. “It allows the officers to capture data one time and use that data wherever they need to,” he said, stressing that the sharing piece must be leveraged. The Kansas Highway Patrol is currently bringing more agencies on board week by week. Out of the 450 law entities in Kansas, 300 have less than 12 sworn officers, a group that generally does not have IT staff, or even IT experience in general, much less funding for such endeavors. So having access to KLER, a real-time information depot, will prove to be invaluable. “Some of the larger municipal entities in the state are modeling mobile systems based on what we do,” Thurman said. “We figure we must be doing something right.”