MELBOURNE BEACH - When Melbourne Beach police Officer Rick Dovale pulls over a speeder or other traffic-law breaker, ball-point pens rarely are involved anymore.
New method. Melbourne Beach police Officer Rick Dovale pulls out a traffic ticket printed in his police vehicle. Rik Jesse, FLORIDA TODAY Instead of writing on a tablet of tickets on the side of the road, Dovale can simply swipe the driver's license through an electronic device that automatically fills in much of the who, what, when, where and why.
While a driver receiving a handwritten citation is likely to be just as steamed as one presented with a cyber version, the benefits to police -- and drivers in general -- are obvious.
Sgt. Mark Renkens of the Palm Bay Police points to a correlation between tickets written and fewer traffic accidents.
So, anything that makes ticket-writing faster, more readable and safer for police is welcomed.
Palm Bay uses seven of them with its motorcycle units. Melbourne Beach police Chief David Syrkus introduced the scanners after taking office last June.
"I can watch the driver more carefully," Dovale said. "When I'm writing a ticket, a driver can be halfway to me before I notice."
And, less time writing tickets means more time on the road.
"This is going to benefit the police officers and the public, who won't have to sit alongside the road so long," Renkens said.
Ray Dils, management information systems director for the Brevard County Sheriff's Office, has developed a prototype for the software for an automated system officers can use with their laptops using state forms.
"All our cars have laptops. Now, we just need printers and (driver license) scanners," he said. He's waiting for 10 systems to be mounted in vehicles to try out his prototype.
The system will allow a recap of the citation, Dils said, "including notes to jog their memory before they go into court."
In all, it will cost the county $132,000 to equip all 220 vehicles to work with his system, Dils said, compared with an estimated cost of $880,000 for a licensed handheld system.
The Palm Bay Police Department bought seven Virtual Partners Pocket Citations -- including a mug-sized wireless thermal printer and credit card-sized license reader -- for $7,000 each.
They're designed for motorcycle traffic officers. "All we have to do is choose the charge from a drop-down list and we can cut people loose," Renkens said.
The Florida Highway Patrol uses a scanner with the computers in their cars, spokeswoman Kim Miller said. "Now, our officers don't get writers' cramp by the end of the day," she said.