FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - After a few months of having a new technology that disables their in-car computer, Fort Wayne police officers are adjusting.
"I've been so used to having a computer to look up information and to be able to switch from screen to screen," John Chambers, a Fort Wayne Police Department officer, said. "Once [the technology] was installed, there have been several times I've tried to go to a different screen and it beeps at me."
The device makes it so officers can't use the mouse or keyboard on their computers after the car hits 15 miles per hour.
"The screens still update, but they're just unable to enter data," Rusty York, the Fort Wayne Police Department chief, said.
That means when the computer is locked, new information from dispatchers about a call will show up for the officer to read.
Over the years, York explained, as more equipment was added to squad cars, more distractions ended up being added too.
"We noticed an increase in accidents related to officer distraction," York said.
That's why the department worked with a Fort Wayne company to develop the technology to control the computers.
"I'll be the first to admit this is not the most popular thing you can do and not all the officers are tickled to death about it, but there's a general degree of understanding that it's the safer way to do things," York said.
Chambers said before the locking system, officers would often run license plates and names of suspects while driving. That work flow is now being rerouted.
"It's just finding different ways to do it because we still have information channels. They can go to that channel and get a license plate check or a warrant check," York said.
If the call isn't an emergency, the officers might also pull over.
"You may see officers on the side of the road or on a side street looking up information prior to arriving at a scene," Chambers said.
Officers can also do some information searching while stopped at red lights.
The technology is installed on about 65 percent of the department's 360 squad cars with computers. The process started last fall and the rest of the vehicles are in the process of getting the controls. The devices cost between $90-100,000 and were paid for with money seized in raids and drug busts.
"I think within the next three to four years, this will be the standard on most police computers, something to keep officers from texting and driving," York said. "I like to think we're at the front end of this."
York said other departments have already been calling asking about the technology.
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