So much for paper.
The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office has launched a records software system that should eliminate much of the paper deputies have to push, thereby giving them more time to patrol the streets and catch up with the bad guys.
"It's going to increase our efficiency on a number of fronts. … When we have to go back to the station and take reports, that's another squad off the street," said Commander Jeff Ramacher, the project manager.
"Our goal here is to become as paperless as possible."
The records management system (RMS), which replaces one that dates to 2003, will allow authorities to connect directly with different systems and digital databases — such as the Ramsey County courts — to more quickly access warrant information, state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension data, jail records and other data, Ramacher said.
It also will let Ramsey County share information with other agencies that are plugged into it, including the cities of Mounds View, New Brighton and Maplewood.
Among its key features: Officers will electronically send citations to the courts (rather than faxing or dropping off paper copies) and record evidence directly into the system (instead of logging it on paper and having it entered by technicians).
The county's new emergency dispatch system also feeds information directly to officers on patrol, who can report back electronically from their squad cars.
Ramacher said the system, which cost $1.5 million to implement, will be introduced in phases. At some point, it will be expanded so that some functions can be accessed on smartphones and tablets, Ramacher said.
Ramsey County, which began using the software system last month, isn't alone in taking steps to improverecord management.
The Minneapolis Police Department is evaluating vendors for a new system. And St. Paul police are discussing whether to switch to the same system used by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office implemented a records management system about a year ago to help make its operations more efficient. Plans are also in the works in Anoka and Scott counties to install new record-keeping systems.
"Obviously, one of the benefits will be a lot less paper," said Cassie Koch, business and administration manager for the Scott County Sheriff's Office.
"The nice thing" about Ramsey County's new system, Ramacher said, is that it simplifies things for the county, allowing employees to "go to one place to do all this stuff."
Blair Emerson, a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune, contributed to this report.