Episode 78 – Advantages of Electronic Citations Solutions for Law Enforcement & Courts


Enhancing Safety, Efficiency, and Accuracy

In today’s episode, Penny Conway, Mike Gambell, and John Wiley are taking about how electronic citations can increase safety, efficiency, and accuracy for your department. Electronic citations solutions have several advantages over handwritten citations, and you will hear about them from the experts in the matter.

Key takeaways

[1:21] John Wiley introduces himself and his work at Zebra Technologies.

[1:55] Mike Gambell talks about his background and current work.

[3:32] The matter of law enforcement.

[4:51] The two most dangerous calls for an officer are traffic stops and domestic violence situations.

[10:08] The current situation in the USA in regards to e-citations.

[13:25] Electronic citations enhance an officer’s response time.

[15:51] The cost of not implementing a solution can be greater than the cost of developing the answer to a particular problem.

[16:30] John talks about the cost of doing nothing vs the cost of doing something.

[19:04] John and Mike explain a way that a department can promote self-funding.

[22:55] Mike talks about how the full solution for officers provided by Zebra Technologies looks like.

[26:25] What actions can you take within your department to start making the necessary steps to enhance the efficiency and safety of the officers?

Listen to more TechSperience podcasts

Transcript of Episode 78 of the Techsperience

Penny Conway (00:02):

Law enforcement is facing a number of challenges in 2020. Safety and funding are two of them. With these numerous challenges that they’re facing, safety during traffic stop shouldn’t be one of them. I’m your host, Penny Conway, and on today’s all new episode of Connection’s TechSperience, we’re going to talk about how electronic citations could increase safety, efficiency and accuracy for your department. Welcome to the podcast, John and Mike.

John Wiley (00:56):

Hey, thanks. Great to be here.

Mike Gambrell (00:58):

Yeah, great to be here with you, Penny.

Penny Conway (00:59):

I am excited to talk about today’s topic of law enforcement and electronic citations, and really what that means for police departments and state and local government as well. But before we really get into the meat of it, why don’t we go ahead and make some introductions. John, why don’t we start with you, who you are, what you do and what brings you to the podcast today?

John Wiley (01:22):

Yeah. Thank you, Penny. John Wiley, I’m a Channel Account Manager for Government and Education with Zebra Technologies based out of Chicago. And Zebra works with partners around the country and around the world to provide all kinds of solutions for public sector like the eCitation that we’re talking about today.

Penny Conway (01:41):

Excellent, we are excited to have you and excited to learn what Zebra has to offer. Mike, how about you? What brings you to the podcast today? And tell us a little bit about yourself.

Mike Gambrell (01:51):

Okay, yeah. 30 years in law enforcement. Retired as a Police Chief in Greenville, South Carolina, graduated from FBI National Academy back in 2007. Never really seen myself on this side of the coin here. I was on as a police chief and working my way up through the department and purchasing the technology as an end user but never imagined myself on the sales side, but being able to come in and provide reliable and dependable solutions like what Zebra is offering and working with the great people at Connection, where I serve from the Synnex side of being able to be your subject matter experts and talking with the end users.

Mike Gambrell (02:33):

And really the reason that I got involved in this is I’ve seen failed technology projects from the end user side before. And I want to make sure that we’re offering reliable and dependable solutions, like what Zebra has to offer in public safety, and be able to take pride in seeing the officers, these first responders out here, as they serve, protect and care on a daily basis with technology that they can purchase and integrate, that’s going to enhance their lives and enhance the public’s lives that they’re serving.

Penny Conway (03:06):

Excellent. I’m really excited to have this conversation with both of you because I think elephant in the room, law enforcement is a huge topic right now. Everything from, like I said in the intro, safety, how they interact with the public all the way to a funding and what funding will or will not be available moving forward. And I was doing a little bit of research on this episode before we all got together here and I was actually surprised to see that, and it’s not something I think about often, that something as simple as an officer getting out of their car and going to, maybe I’ve been pulled over. I’ve sped before. I’ve been on the side of the… I know you can’t even believe it, me, the host of the podcast. Our producer, Rob, is gasping.

Penny Conway (04:02):

But you’re on a highway and a lot of these situations and you’ve got cars that are going by at 65, 75 miles an hour. And it didn’t even dawn on me that risk that a law enforcement agent is taking on just by stepping out of the car on a highway. What is, in your experience, Mike, you’ve lived this before. What does that look like for an officer? What is the reality that an incident could occur when they’re outside their car just doing a traffic stop, outside of all of the noise that we’re hearing, just the accident part of things? So what have you seen in your experience?

Mike Gambrell (04:42):

Well, I think you make a good point there, because what you have to realize is the two most dangerous calls for an officer to go on is a traffic stop and a domestic violence situation. And so if you sit down and look at the analysis that’s been performed on officers hurt in the line of duty or officers killed in the line of duty, those are your two most prevalent calls. So what we’re trying to do with the introduction of technology is actually enhance their lives by minimizing the amount of time that they’re there, and being able to provide them with as much intel as they need to make quick accurate decisions and be able to defend theirselves in a traffic stop situation.

Mike Gambrell (05:27):

I think two, also, you have to realize, what did officers say? Hey, in 1984, when I got involved in law enforcement, I know that seems like a long time ago over my 30 year career, but we didn’t have technology as traffic stop was made by me picking up my radio, I’m seeing the violation, me picking up my radio, calling it into headquarters, calling the description of the vehicle out, the tag number, description of the individual that I’ve seen inside the car, or where I was making the traffic stop, and I went into this blindly. That’s without any technology, just like you talked about, you’re making the traffic stop, you’re exiting your patrol car and you’re making the approach.

Mike Gambrell (06:09):

In this day in time, you have the technology, just like what John will talk about with Zebra from an eCitation standpoint that really enhances the officer’s safety and really enhances the overall management of traffic stops. So think about this, back in 1984 and for years after that, and even to some degree in some small departments that we see today, I had a metal clip board that was my handwritten incident report, I had a smaller metal clip board that had my traffic citation in that. So we’ll use you Penny as an example, since you said you were stopped before. What did the officer do? The officer asked for your driver’s license and registration, okay?

Penny Conway (06:56):


Mike Gambrell (06:56):

So then he or she had to go back to that patrol car and get out their pen and sit there and write all of the information down.

Penny Conway (07:07):

[inaudible 00:07:07] start sweating, right?

Mike Gambrell (07:08):

Right. Yeah.

Penny Conway (07:08):

When they are [inaudible 00:07:09] in the car for that long.

Mike Gambrell (07:11):

You’re wondering what’s going on back there? But, so you had to do that and then you know the information on your driver’s license, as far as the date of birth, male, female, all of that, height, weight, everything had to be handwritten and you actually had to flip it up. It was four carbon copies of a ticket. And you had to go to the third copy and actually write that information down. So look at the time that it was taking for you on this traffic stop. Now, let’s move to today. We move to today and we see a vendor like Zebra that knows the importance of introducing technology was actually a founding member on the eCitation coalition. That’s how much forethought that they have on this.

Mike Gambrell (07:59):

But now I’m able to bring that same driver’s license and registration, scan them, it automatically populates. I don’t have to go to any third copy of the citation and write down all of your essential information. And when I issue the ticket, I’m only having to add in just a few things such as, what the violation was, for the location and the court date. And that minimizes the amount of time that an officer is involved in that traffic stop, and thus minimizes the amount of time that it would take for them to possibly be hurt or killed in a traffic stop situation.

Penny Conway (08:41):

What would your estimate be? Because I’m trying to… It’s been a long… I can say this, it’s been a long time since I’ve been pulled over, but I was actually cleaning out my glove box the other day, and one of those people that when the officer asks for my registration, I have four years worth of registrations that I’m trying to figure out which one’s the right one. But I happened to find, I was in a little bit of a fender bender and I found the yellow copy of the accident report that had the other guy’s name on it, my stuff on it, and I immediately, as I was prepping for this podcast, that immediately came to mind because I was like, “Oh, I have this police department in my local area, must still be doing this type of citation where…” I didn’t get a fine or anything.

Penny Conway (09:27):

But if they’re doing that for a fender bender, are they using it for speeding tickets or whatever it might be, other sort of citations. What would your estimate be of law enforcement agencies across the country that are still doing it this old way versus maybe starting to adopt these new technology solutions that are out there that reduce time on the road in a more efficient process?

John Wiley (09:55):

It all really concentrates back to funding, and really you have to look at it by state. So I think you have to realize there’s 17,000 police agencies out there. 90% of them are 25 officers or less. Sure, you see the NFL top cities, your New Yorks, your LAs, your Miamis. And looking at those progressive solutions like Zebra offers to be able to have those in their patrol cars and perform the eCitation service. But then when you get into all those smaller police departments, that really comes by funding. And what you have seen is some states have said, “Okay, hey, here’s how we’re going to introduce eCitations in reference to all the departments within the state.” And if they provide funding from that, whether it’s from a federal grant that comes down to the state for disbursement from that, or if it’s from a state funding. And generally, we in law enforcement knows that whether it’s a federal grant or a state grant, the reason that it’s put into that grant format, that funding is put in that grant format, so they can track the success of it.

John Wiley (10:58):

So when you really look at it, I wouldn’t know a percentage in reference to how many is using it, but a lot of the smaller departments, so you know, just do not have the funding to be able to implement this type of solution at this point. But what I do think is this is here we’re hearing the groups protesting in this day and time in reference to defund in police, and that’s a one side of the coin.

John Wiley (11:26):

But on the other side of the coin, they’re calling for transparency and accountability. Well, how do you achieve transparency and accountability? You cannot cut the police budget. You’ve got to be able to appropriately fund it and be able to purchase and integrate technology such as this, to be able to have that accountability and transparency. When you’re talking about eCitations, what you are talking about there’s the FR-10, that form that you have to take as far as proof of insurance to your insurance company. And so Zebra makes printers, not only will they print out for the eCitation, but they’ll print out those forms in reference to that. That goes in with software for your records management system, software for a computer aided dispatch. And so that all has connectivity, and you’re able to, the same way as I was talking about, you’re able to you scan in, if I was… I hate to use you as an example again, but since she was involved in the fender bender, then it’s you and another individual as far as the drivers that have had the accident.

John Wiley (12:35):

And so once again, just like eCitation asking for your driver’s license, your registration, just like I talked about, I’m able to scan that in automatically, so it automatically populates. So therefore, if I’ve got that typically in the past, back to my old steel clipboard there, is, I had to hand write all of that. Now all of this is automatically populated for me and think about this, you’re enhancing the abilities of that officer and the service to the citizens by minimizing the time that the officer is there working that traffic accident for you, prints out those FR-10 forms, if somebody’s got a citation, there’s the eCitation again. And then that officer can go about his or her own way. Formally it would take an hour or more just to work a traffic accident. And so what you’re doing by integrating this technology, the Zebra technology into your patrol cars in this day and time, is you’re enhancing really your response times.

John Wiley (13:37):

And that plays well with your mayor and councils around the country, because they can stand back and say, “Hey, listen, during the time that I was on council then I provided funding for our police department that implemented these citations that created connectivity in the patrol car to where we have the mobility.” No longer does the officer have to come and leave his or her beat and come back to the police department to perform essential functions. I’m keeping them on his or beat by having this connectivity and being able to have everything.

John Wiley (14:12):

You think about it. And in this day and time, the patrol car with the technology that you can provide in there, is more like a cockpit of an airplane. And you think about it, the officers that are utilizing that, grew up with technology. They grew up with phones, with tablets and being able to utilize that, it enhances their safety, enhances their efficiency, and then enhances the overall efficiency of the city or county as a whole. And thus, that’s where you start seeing real progress in the enhancement of services as they’re serving, protecting and caring on a daily basis.

Penny Conway (14:53):

Yeah, it seems… I look at it and always, but sometimes I have a very… Working in technology and offering a vast variety of solutions and knowing about them, everything seems like a no brainer to me. Like why wouldn’t someone do this? But then I look back pre pandemic and I saw many things companies did not take advantage of that were a no brainer that put them in a very precarious position when everything happened. John, I want to ask some questions from your side, because I think one thing Rob and I have always said on the podcast is, a lot of things aren’t technology problems, or it’s not an IT problem, but there is an IT or technology solution that can make everybody’s life better. And at some point there has to be the cost of not doing something has to be greater than the actual cost of doing something. And Mike, you alluded to smaller agencies being able to get funding from the state level or funding from a government.

Penny Conway (15:57):

But, I’m listening to all the things that are going into the citation process, the pulling the car over, doing all of the work to identify what the vehicle is, calling back in, taking copies of licenses, handwriting things out. And then I’m assuming we haven’t even got to yet, but how that all runs through the court system and how many times that information is being reentered from a hard copy of something. So John, when we look at the cost of doing nothing versus the cost of doing something, is there really a significant… I’m sure there’s an initial investment, but what does this longterm strategy look like from a funding standpoint for maybe a large department or a smaller department if they were to implement this? I’m assuming there has to be some sort of savings here that makes sense, that maybe we just need to break down and help people understand what that looks like.

John Wiley (16:56):

Yeah, Penny, there’s one piece that always applies, and that is on the backend with the courts, because the reality is that with handwritten citations, sometimes they get thrown out for one reason or another. Anyone who’s accused of a serious infraction is going to come in with a lawyer and it’s their job and their experience to get that citation challenged or thrown out. And it comes down to everything from legibility to being able to prove that the information is accurate and what Mike took us through earlier, the scenario of what the officer is having to deal with is he or she is writing the citation. There’s so much going on. There’s danger. There’s many distractions that sometimes it’s incomplete or it’s inaccurate or it can be challenged.

John Wiley (17:44):

So you get higher percentage of the citations successfully promptly processed Through the courts and that’s revenue for the county or the municipality. That revenue’s important. But there’s another component in some eCitation deployments, which is truly a self-funding deployment. And in these cases, many municipalities or counties will add a fee to each citation. And that fee covers the cost of the initial deployment of the technology and keeping it up to date so that every time there’s a citation that helps fund the deployment.

Penny Conway (18:20):

Oh, okay. Oh, you know what? I actually saw something about that. It was like, there are a couple of states that have passed legislation that adds like $5 and 50 cent fee to help get the dollars to self-fund as you’re saying. I think I just brought that home for myself. So we’re seeing a couple of states start to pass that legislation. Are you seeing that more broadly across the board? Is that something that can be done more on a state and local level or, I mean a city level or is it have to be mandated by a state in order for a department to look to put something like that in place to help them self-fund?

John Wiley (19:02):

Yeah, it’s not 100%, but it’s becoming more and more widespread. It does depend on the local laws. But Mike, what would you say in response to that?

Mike Gambrell (19:13):

I think you’ve made a great point, John, because that is truly one of the funding sources that provides some of this. I know I mentioned, Penny, earlier grants that are coming down, asset forfeiture has been used as some in the past. But too, for those in the audience, we can come in and actually sit down with you because when you’re putting these grants together, you are defining the scope of your project. In that scope of the project, you are actually setting down and defining how this is going to enhance your abilities. Even if he was going to mayor and council and ask for money, the first thing out of their mouth is going to be, “How is this going to enhance the services of the police department?”

Mike Gambrell (19:57):

And so the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Administration, they ask the same questions. So you have to define that. And being able to sit down and help those in the audience that are looking at these type of solutions and actually add the enhancers for the scope of your project would be of tremendous value that we can come in. And I knew you asked that question earlier and I wanted to make that point, but there is various funding streams sometimes that you have to think outside the box. We all know that in the police department and city government, 90% of your budget is salary and benefits. So you’ve got that 10% of it here. So you have to look outside of that. So I think as, me being a subject matter expert, working with Connection, working with chiefs and sheriffs and fire chiefs and EMS directors around the country, then being able to come in and say, “Hey, listen, this is a funding strain that you might not have thought about to be able to come in.”

Mike Gambrell (20:54):

And then being able to offer a contract vehicle as well. Hey, if I can utilize a contract vehicle, I’m going to use it 10 out of 10 times, because I don’t have to put out an RFP. I don’t have to go through all that headache. So that’s another value add that Connection offers that you’re able to utilize. So in other words, you’ve got the solution, you’ve got the possible funding stream, and then you’ve got a contract vehicle to use. So that’s really everything that you need. And then what you get out of it is what we’ve been talking about in our conversation todaym, is your officers are going to appreciate you because you’ve enhanced their abilities. Your court system is going to appreciate you. And that really helps solve cases. In the past. Okay, let’s think about that citation, that handwritten citation, it goes back in, you got to pay a data entry clerk to be able to sit there and tap that enter it into the system.

Mike Gambrell (21:52):

How many days does it take for that to be entered in the system? This, when you have eCitation, it goes directly into the system. And so if I’m an officer in New York City and I’ve written a citation to somebody, and then they get across the river there over in the New Jersey, that an officer over there stops them. Then they’re able to see in the system that, “Hey, this person was just stopped over in New York.” And really when you start looking at that, that could put a person in a particular area where an incident just occurred, it might be an unsolved crime of some degree, and you’re able to put your suspect in that vicinity just by being able to have this resource at your fingertips. And that’s another part of the solution that Zebra offers.

Mike Gambrell (22:47):

They have tablets, the ruggedized tablets that you can place in the patrol cars that gives you a full solution. You’ve got your ruggedized tablet to where you’ve have that computerated dispatch software, the records management software, your eCitation software, and then having your printers there, your scanners, all of that is a full solution that Zebra offers to address the problems. And really that’s what law enforcement is looking at. Hey, how do I address this problem? How can I enhance my services? They might not really know, but being able to lean on Connection, being able to lean on subject matter experts, being able to lean on a vendor that like I said earlier, has had enough forethought and vision to be involved in the eCitation coalition, and and provide these reliable and dependable solutions. That’s going to help you on daily basis and on a longterm basis as well.

Penny Conway (23:49):

That’s a great point. One of the first things that you said in your introduction, Mike, was that you never thought that you’d be on this side, with all of your years in law enforcement and your training and your entire career being focused on that being on the other side. And I wonder how many leaders in the law enforcement space have that same feeling they’ve been on the… It sounds funny, they’ve been on the side of the law for so long that they understand that maybe how they’re doing it today isn’t the best way, isn’t the most efficient way, isn’t the most accurate way? One of the stats that I had read from the eCitation coalition said that, if a department has five or 20 officers that are writing five citations a day, it can be over 1600 hours of additional work in terms of the time that they’re spending writing these, what happens when it leaves them, which in some cases cost of that could account for a whole nother body, a whole nother officer on the force.

Penny Conway (24:58):

And I think when we start looking at things like that, it can come home for someone who maybe isn’t entrenched in technology, or always thinking about what tech they should implement or what the business case is for what they’re doing. So I love your tips and how a department or how a law enforcement agency should really approach this is how much waste is there. You know that there’s a problem, now let’s see if we can quantify what the waste of time is, where we’re being efficient and start building those proposals that pull in solutions like Zebra has, pulls in the expertise that Connection and Synnex can offer and let us do what we’re good at while you do what you’re good at, which is protecting and serving and doing all of those great things.

Penny Conway (25:48):

I want to ask as we come to a close here. I think that we’ve stated the very obvious, that there’s an awesome solution that is all encompassing from Zebra, from the ruggedized tablets to the printers, to the scanners, everything, we say mobile trailblazer a lot as a persona in the tech world. And I think police officers are the true mobile trailblazer with their office and their car. Once someone hears this and says, “Yes, I know this is a problem. Yes, I understand self-funding. Yes, I understand what’s out there.” What action would you suggest that they take within their department to start making steps to make this a reality for them?

Mike Gambrell (26:30):

Well, I think the first thing you do is lean out to Connection to bring them in. But I think that, like what you just mentioned just a second ago, that statistic that you mentioned, that is what I’m talking about as far as putting it in the scope of your grant. So the first thing you can do is start setting down and determining, hey, you realize this is a great solution. You realize that it’s something that’s going to enhance your officer’s safety and going enhance the efficiency of your overall department and your service to your citizens. So sit down and start looking at funding, those funding streams, start looking at your contract vehicles that you’ll be able to utilize. You know the solution. We’ve talked about the solution today. So Connection can be able to actually connect you with John and to find people at Zebra to come in and show you the solutions and start getting that visibility.

Mike Gambrell (27:21):

And hey, before I’ve led a council member or something, see the solution as we’re demoing it. But what I’m talking about about reaching out to Connection, Connection can help you in reference to trying to find a possible funding stream, looking at possible demo equipment, looking at the solutions as a whole, and then helping you identify how this is going to enhance your efficiency. And then that’s when you present it. Whether it is through funding that you’re seeking on a state or national level, or whether it’s through mayor and council. Whatever your funding stream that you’re looking at, identify that. But I think the reason that we’re sitting here having this discussion is to let people know, hey, Connection has all that to offer. Reach out to Connection and then allow us to come in and sit down and talk with you and help you identify some of these key points in integrating this solution into your department.

Penny Conway (28:19):

Excellent. And I think you pointed out something very important there is, get your mayor, get your council, get the courts. We often work, and I do it in my own job in my own life, we work in these small bubbles of things that we think only we’re in charge of and we need to come up with the solution. But typically, in a lot of situations, these things hit so many other departments and agencies. And I think what both of you brought up around the efficiency and accuracy and the court system and across state lines is a huge, huge bonus and can all be built in that RFP or that proposal that you want to bring forward for funding.

Penny Conway (29:01):

So awesome topic today. I think, like I said at the front, safety and funding, and John, you mentioned, both of you mentioned transparency. This seems like really low hanging fruit to identify funding sources that can help you put technology in place that can increase your efficiency and your accuracy. And I think most importantly, for a lot of us, the safety of officers that are out there with so many things that are out there that are potential dangers, let’s reduce what we can. Let’s not put them in harm’s way when we can avoid it.

Penny Conway (29:36):

So I appreciate, Mike, your experience and your expertise from the field, John, your expertise on building a solution with Zebra and partnership with Connection. For all of you that are listening, if you are interested in learning more about how to implement the solution to reduce your costs and increase your safety, reach out to your Connection account manager. You can also visit us at www.connection.com to get more information. And on whatever platform you are listening to this podcast on today, please remember to like, share, and follow, so you can be the first to hear all new episodes like this and how to improve technology and improve your efficiency across the board. Mike, John, thank you so much for joining today’s episode. Super informative. I really appreciate your time.

John Wiley (30:29):

Thank you Penny.

Mike Gambrell (30:29):

Thank you, Penny.