Take a Trip to the Past (or Drive to the Courthouse)September 26th, 2008 by josh farley
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.