Take a Trip to the Past (or Drive to the Courthouse)

I am often amazed at the antiquity with which our criminal justice system functions.

Dictating reports by telephone. Continuously running fax machines. Even dot matrix printers. From my view, a trip to the courthouse can sometimes be a fairly anachronistic experience.

That’s not to say it’s the fault of anyone working in the criminal justice system. And even in the time I’ve been at the Kitsap Sun, vasts improvements have been made. (I haven’t seen the tiny holes that line the sides of paper required for dot matrix printing in some time, for instance.)

My suspicion is that the volumes of data — year after year of chunky case files and criminal histories — has been hard, to compile digitally. Couple that with the official, constitutionally sacred nature of this data — each page must be scanned — and you’ve got a remarkably cumbersome process. But the Kitsap County Clerk’s Office, the storer of all superior court cases, seems to be accomplishing this monumental task, slowly but surely.

It’s ironic that in a system where information can be a law enforcer’s most important tool, that criminal justice often lags in said technologies. It’s only been about a decade, from what I’ve heard, that all law enforcement in Kitsap County has joined a shared information network called “I/Leads.” Most every cop in Kitsap County has finally gotten an MCT, or mobile computer terminal, which allows them to access information such as car registrations.

One area of old-fashioned police work I still can’t grasp is the idea of dictating a report over the phone to be typed later. Seems to me that everyone would save a lot of time by typing on the first go around, which more and more of our cops around here do. I can’t imagine the idea, for instance, of writing a story for the pages of the Kitsap Sun but first talking it into a phone to be transcribed.

Some of the work in criminal justice seems to require certain antiquity. When an officer signs a statement of probable cause for someone’s arrest, for instance, they need a signature on a tangible page. That means lots of faxing each day between law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office. Perhaps a “digital” signature will one day be accepted, a move that would save reams of paper.

4 thoughts on “Take a Trip to the Past (or Drive to the Courthouse)

  1. Good article, Josh.

    What will it take to help update KC? The idea that ANY officer has to waste her/his valuable time in unnecessary paperwork is beyond belief.

    Until now I hadn’t known updating hadn’t happened but I hope communication between states is up-to-date.? eg: missing persons.

    What can we, public, do to expedite the update?
    Sharon O’Hara

  2. The reason is simple- no money. If not for the lack of funding, local law enforcement would have up to date technology. Unfortunately many folks either don’t think about them or don’t even care for the police. Until they actually need them.

  3. I’m under the impression that the police reports are done by phone to be transcribed so the officers “don’t” have to lose patrol time with paperwork. Reporters may be able to type better than most police officers.

    Good article. I also think that if we didn’t create so much paperwork, we wouldn’t have to be reshuffling it all the time. It is the legal system that is much to blame for all the requirements of paper work.
    I remember 20 years ago when a real estate agreement was 2 pages long. Now with all the mandatory disclosures which include pages of “I don’t know” answers, it is difficult to have agreements less than 18 pages along with a pamphlet disclosing about disclosures. I’m waiting for a disclosure page about the disclosure pamphlet that concerns disclosures. It’s nuts because the bottom line is anybody can sue anybody for any reason.

    If you’ve signed mortgage documents at a closing lately, you know that the pile of papers is now well over an inch thick. Yet, considering the lending fiasco, what good did all that do?

  4. It seems that with the increase of paperwork to ‘safeguard’ the citizens, the less accountability the individuals and corporations have.

    Years ago – before the ‘disclosure’ paperwork required of the seller, on a final walk through of my house, I told the buyers and real estate agent that they needed to be aware I had wired the fireplace damper in the open position with a wire clothes hanger and they needed to have the damper fixed. (I had forgotten it until then)

    I had come home one day and discovered the house full of smoke from the fireplace.
    The damper closed on a smoldering fire and caused extensive smoke damage. Had I – anyone – been upstairs sleeping, the outcome might well have had an unpleasant result.

    The point is that people used to rely on honesty and a good conscience. These days, as Tom pointed out, we rely on stacks of signed paper of official looking, important appearing, paper we now know is worthless.
    See the 700 billion dollar attempted ‘Bail-out.

    All that paper is proved to be of less value than in the old days of a person’s word, handshake and simple signature of commitment.

    In the old days people didn’t want to be the cause of injury to others…they were good neighbors too.

    We’ve raised kids to depend on government – someone – to bail them out of… anything. That ‘government’ will ‘fix it’.

    Are we proud of ourselves yet?
    In my opinion… Sharon O’Hara

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