Handheld Computers to Track Traffic Stops in Montgomery County, Maryland

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
June 27, 2000 12:00 am

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ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND — According to a story in today’s Montgomery Journal, police officers in Montgomery County will be issued one more piece of equipment to go along with their handcuffs and uniforms – handheld computers.

In announcing the acquisition of the computers yesterday, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and Police Chief Charles A. Moose said the move, part of an agreement to prevent racial profiling between the county and the U.S. Department of Justice, will allow officers to complete traffic stops more efficiently. (More information is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w011400a.html.)

Starting in August, officers will be equipped with computers the size of an index card and about one-half of an inch thick that will allow them to log in information, such as the duration of the stop and the gender and race of the driver, immediately after the stop.

The units go toward fulfilling an agreement between the county and the Department of Justice requiring county officers to document all traffic stops to ensure non-discriminatory law enforcement in the county, officials said.

The computers, called TRAFFIC STOP, then can be loaded into a charger at the police station where the information will be transferred to the department’s database.

Officers also will be able to access other information through the computers including phone numbers, daily crime information, traffic issues, portions of the criminal code and department regulations.

Following NAACP complaints of racial profiling by county police, the Department of Justice conducted a three-year investigation that found no evidence of racial profiling in the county, although it found blacks received a disproportionate number of traffic tickets.

Following the report, the Department of Justice required the police department to implement a computerized system for traffic-stop data.

“[The computers] help fulfill an agreement with the Department of Justice, but also provide another tool to help officers be more efficient on the beat,” said officer Derek Baliles, a Montgomery County Police spokesman. “It’s a gigantic step forward for us.”

The county will foot the $373,000 bill for 1,200 units, allowing all of the county’s 1,032 officers to carry the devices.

“I am pleased that this new technology will help the Montgomery County Police Department implement the Department of Justice agreement and give our officers the tools they need to more efficiently go about their work,” Duncan said in a statement.

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