Feb. 5, 2007

Howard Lake police utilize high-tech equipment

A law enforcement mobile application in squad cars

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

With information at their fingertips, Howard Lake police officers on patrol can quickly search a vast database of records from the seat of a squad car.

On-board computers coupled with a mobile application called eMERTS has been in place in the squad cars for about six months, and has given the department a valuable tool.

A good example where the eMERTS system provided much needed support happened last week.

The vehicle of a suspected kidnapper, all the way from Volusia County Florida, was pulled over just west of Waverly by the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.

Howard Lake Police Officer Derek Szczepanik responded to a request for assistance by Wright County.

The driver of the vehicle identified himself with a non-governmental ID as Carlos Fuentes Almaraz and provided Deputy Olson (of Wright County Sheriff’s Office) with a title for the vehicle, according to the incident report.

The name on the title was Bienvenido Almena Rivera, who is the wanted kidnapper. The driver claimed that he was Almaraz and not Rivera, and that he purchased the vehicle from Rivera, the report stated.

Because the officers couldn’t positively identify the driver, Szczepanik took the vehicle title and the non-governmental ID to his squad car to utilize the eMERTS system.

“With the eMERTS system, I was able to confirm the information given by the driver with pictures. The picture (that was run under the name Rivera) matched the driver of the vehicle, the name on the title, and the driver’s license photo, but was not the name on the non-governmental ID,” Szczepanik explained.

The driver was then arrested for the kidnapping warrant, but while in custody, the driver came clean as to buying a social security card from the kidnapper, and after further investigation was proved not to be the kidnapper, according to Howard Lake Police Chief Dan Lang.

Ultimately the driver was charged with giving false information to a police officer and no Minnesota driver’s license.

“The biggest concern was that he wasn’t a kidnapper, and he wasn’t a wanted felon,” Lang said.

So not only does the eMERTS system allow the Howard Lake Police Department to conduct its own investigations, it allows the department to assist other departments as well.

More about eMERTS

In addition to basic records management components, eMERTS provides, “A mobile application that allows us to access driver and vehicle files. With internet capability, it gives the officer real-time access to essential information,” Lang said.

The application can also perform a translation function so that officers can get information from non-English speaking people.

Officers usually type in a yes or no question, convert it to Spanish, for example, point to the computer screen where the individual reads the question and answers the officer, according to Lang.

The database builds records of each time an individual is stopped and shares information with other law enforcement agencies, Lang explained.

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