Dunwoody police officers want you to feel it when they pull you over.
New city patrol cars are outfitted with a “rumbler,” a device that emits a low bass sound. So, in addition to hearing a siren, a misbehaving driver will feel the approach of authority, Dunwoody Police Officer Tim Fecht said.
“So, even if someone has their windows up and the music loud, they’re going to feel the rumble,” he said. “People who weren’t paying attention visually will feel it now.”
Technology has changed all industries and made almost everyone’s life easier—at least in terms of access to information. It’s changed police work, too.
Less than a decade ago, police officers used “blue out” to correct mistakes on handwritten reports and tickets. Now, the cop on the street has access to computers and writes reports digitally.
A decade ago, officers had to remember people’s phone numbers; now, nearly everyone has a smart phone with a digital address book. Access to information makes police work much easier, but can make it more dangerous.
Sandy Springs Police Sgt. Scott Levy said multi-tasking is definitely a challenge brought on by new technology.
“Just because we’re cops doesn’t mean we don’t get distracted,” he said. He added that gaps exist in attention when a person tries to do any two or more things at the same time. “The totality of circumstance is what we consider,” he said.
Sandy Springs Capt. Steve Rose said that when he started his law enforcement career, in 1976, officers had little gear at all. “I came on shortly after the earth cooled,” he joked.
He said he worked with Emory University for about eight months as he applied for work in a police department. He then joined Chamblee’s police force for three years before transferring to Fulton County police in 1979.
In 1982, officers didn’t have much more than a car, a radio and a pair of white gloves to direct traffic. “We didn’t even have the reflective vests for safety,” he said, adding that police used rotary phones on the 911 system until the early 1990s.
Fecht said supervisors can now track patrol cars in Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and Johns Creek with ChatComm, the emergency dispatch system. Chatcomm operators can decide to send a Dunwoody patrol car to a location that is technically in Sandy Springs, but closer to the Dunwoody car.
“Supervisors can track when each Dunwoody PD car is,” Fecht said. “It’s run through our reporting software and you can pull up on a map where you are and where other units are.”
Rose said he worked in the ‘70s with the Motorola radios that only had one to three channels, and officers from Chamblee shared a channel with Doraville. When cellular technology started to become available, he watched the “cool guy” detectives flaunt “bag phones” issued to those on-call. “I called it the ‘Don Johnson-Miami Vice phone’ that cost .35 or .40 cents a minute, but didn’t work most of the time,” Rose said.
Now, some police information officers use social media to communicate with the community. Brookhaven’s Maj. Brandon Gurley said he’s been a public information officer since 2006.
“I started the first Facebook and Twitter pages for the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office as well as implemented the use of Nixle,” Gurley said. “Social Media has made it easier and faster to share information with our community.”
He added that smart phones also increased the ability to get information out faster through applications linking to social media accounts.
Fecht said all Dunwoody patrol vehicles have laptops, and the new Chevrolet Tahoes have a “mobile jetpack” that gives officers access to 4G Internet.
“As a detective, I had a rolodex instead of a computer,” Rose said. He said he had one rolodex for support numbers and another rolodex for “frequent flyers.”
The first computers that came into Fulton County police were donated, Rose said. “They were the 286 models with 40-meg hard drives,” he said. “That was in the early 1990s.”
Even Fecht, who started his law enforcement career just nine years ago, laughed thinking back on how he had to use stencils to draw accidents scenes and he struggled to read handwritten reports.
“So we don’t have the phrase ‘five copies, press hard,’ because gone are the days of paper ticket books,” Fecht said.
Rose said he remembers having to make as many as seven copies of a burglary report. Now, an officer only needs to print two copies of a traffic ticket, one for himself and one for the driver.
And Dunwoody police use thermal printers, which use heat instead of ink, are more legible and efficient, Fecht said.
“Cars aren’t built for speed anymore, they’re rolling information centers,” Rose said.
In 2013, the Atlanta Police Department started using its information to predict crime from data. Predpol uses data about past type of crime, place of crime and time of crime to make predictions that command staff can consider in dispatching patrol cars.
Elizabeth Espy, a spokeswoman for Atlanta police, said technology has increased the department’s response to concerns about crime and complemented old-fashioned police work. “Innovation in technology, such as Predpol, has helped the department boost its presence in needed areas,” she said.
Atlanta’s Chief George Turner said technology like Predpol makes the police smarter, and it puts the Atlanta Police Department on the “cutting edge.”