FRUITLAND — Less paper work and greater efficiency seem to be in the near future for a local police department.

Just before the Fruitland City Council voted last week to front the funds for purchasing the in-vehicle equipment needed for joining a statewide electronic ticketing system, Fruitland Police Chief J.D. Huff provided some background on the system’s benefits.

“It clearly is not something that’s going to be pushed on us, but nonetheless, it looks like something that you could jump into if we had the up-front costs covered for that,” Huff said.

“I kind of like the idea. … The county has installed this equipment in their vehicles and they’re running some tests. The Idaho State Police has been running it through the Magistrate Court here in Payette for quite a few years now, and it’s been very very efficient and very effective.”

Huff said the paper citations the Fruitland Police Department is currently writing are “a five-carbon-copy. The violator gets a copy and they can move on about their business, but the lag time that’s associated with that once we bring the citation back and enter it into our computer system — three days later it makes its way over to the Magistrate Court where it’s processed. And then people can start making their payments on whatever fines or penalties.”

By comparison, the electronic system “is just a quicker, ... much more efficient way for the whole process to take place,” Huff said.

Huff said there are problems associated with the old paper citations, but the department will still have the ability to write them after it joins the electronic system.

“Obviously we can’t completely do away with paper, so those paper citations will still be effective, and in the event we need to write one of those, we certainly can and it would be accepted,” Huff said. He added, “I just paid five hundred dollars for another thousand copies of our citations. We had to do that because we had to update them with the new verbiage with iCourt, because people have to be able to know that they can make those payments on penalties, they can do it online now through … the iCourt portal.”

The portal can be accessed at https://mycourts.idaho.gov.

The council’s Jan. 28 approval puts the Police Department in line for a grant of $17,452 from the Idaho Transportation Department to reimburse for equipping the city’s patrol vehicles. Huff said the city could either provide a “hard match” of $4,323, or a “soft match” which simply entails logging around 8,200 patrol vehicle miles with the new equipment. Huff of course recommended the soft match, because it would mean the city would be fully reimbursed for the initial outlay for equipment. The council followed Huff’s recommendation.

Over the long run, the system’s savings in paper costs alone figure to be substantial.

“The big deal is the thermal paper on this printer that we’ll be using is much like a restaurant receipt, and so it’ll be much cheaper as far as materials go,” Huff said.

Huff said networking wouldn’t be a problem because the department would “piggyback” on a secure state network that “downloads through the State Supreme Court . …. They send Payette County Magistrate an email every day. It lists all the citations that have been done electronically. … It’s pretty neat stuff.”

“I think the only problem I have with this program is that it tracks your warnings,” remarked Councilor Kari Peterson, half-jokingly, after the council voted to approve the grant.

“Yes it does,” affirmed Huff. A minute later he added, “It still doesn’t take away the discretion that the officer has to cite you.”

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