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New system could save police time

The current police software system does not link with state agencies. A new system, proposed to cost roughly one-third of the cost estimated less than two years ago, would be able to do just that, saving police officers from needless work duplication.

The Bemidji City Council voted Monday to spend $91,485 to convert from the existing Cody system to LETG.

LETG, which stands for Law Enforcement Technology Group, was founded by a former Minnesota police officer and already has 12 integrations with state agencies.

"That's huge," said Beryl Wernberg, the 911 communications supervisor-emergency management director for the Sheriff's Office. "You can't even put a price on that."

The council's motion is contingent on the Beltrami County Board taking similar action for the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office; the county is expected to consider the change during its March 22 meeting.

Bemidji Police Chief Gerald Johnson told the council that Cody was implemented in the Bemidji Police Department and Beltrami County Sheriff's Office in 1995. The company, based out of Pennsylvania, promised at the time that it would integrate with the Minnesota state system.

"They've failed to do that miserably," Johnson said.

The inability to do so has resulted in staff needing to re-enter the same information two or three times into different systems.

LETG has the capability of doing e-citations, crime mapping and more.

"We need to move forward a little bit faster than what Cody had even promised us because technology has just taken off," Johnson said.

LETG will allow officers to work within their squad cars and not have to return to the office to duplicate reporting needs.

More than a year ago, the Police Department and Sheriff's Office received quotes on what it would cost to get the LETG system. It was well over $1 million.

This time, the bid was about $327,000.

"Obviously, the economic conditions that prevail are affecting the bidding, and they believe this is a pretty lean cost," Bemidji City Manager John Chattin said of law enforcement officials.

Chattin noted that the cost of the new system would improve law enforcement and facilitate better use of employees' time.

"This is a good return on investment," he said.

City funds would come from city surplus dollars.

"This is very much a joint venture between the city and the county," Wernberg said.

Wernberg said problems with Cody are plentiful, noting that Beltrami County Jail staff has to enter information on inmates three different times.

"It's a waste of time," she said. "A very big waste of time."

Cody also would have required a $25,000 digital camera just to take a mug shot, she noted. With LETG, you can do so with a $100 point-and-shoot camera.

LETG has been thoroughly tested, she said. Not only have the two local agencies talked to other law enforcement agencies that have used it, but officers and deputies also have been able to test it out. Portable laptops have been used in the past 18 months to make sure the LETG system is a good fit for the area.

"Employees have looked at the two systems, and LETG was voted on as being the most appropriate for our need," Wernberg said.