Law enforcement agencies statewide are in the early stages of upgrading technology that would make DWI reporting more efficient in Louisiana, including a cross-agency DWI arrest reporting system and new blood-alcohol testing devices that feed data into a centralized state network.
The DWI arrest reporting system is already in use by a handful of offices, and a total of 253 law enforcement agencies will begin receiving upgraded testing systems this month.
“These are tools in this modern era to help the policeman do his job of getting impaired people off the road,” Louisiana Highway Safety Commission spokesman Chuck Miller said.
The $6 million rollout for the DWI arrest report system, which includes outfitting every participating office with a computer and the necessary software, is fully funded by the state’s Highway Safety Commission through grants from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Although the arrest report is not the DWI database officials want — that tool would ideally make DWI conviction information more consistently available across parish lines — it will reduce the time frame from the moment of arrest to when other agencies receive information about the arrest.
“Paperwork is extremely voluminous, and one of the reasons we did this is to eliminate paperwork and errors and time,” said Miller, who’s also a former state trooper.
Paper reporting means it takes weeks before the state Office of Motor Vehicles learns a person’s license was revoked for either refusing or failing a blood-alcohol test, Miller said. Now, that information will be disseminated as soon as a supervisor approves an officer’s arrest report — generally within hours — which should prevent an offender from procuring another license during the lag or, if the offender is again arrested on DWI, having a new booking charge not reflect that the DWI arrest is a second, third or fourth offense.
The reporting system also is compatible with the two main software systems already in use by all but six of the state’s 42 district attorney’s offices, although plans are in the works to also incorporate those other offices should they choose to participate, Miller said. It also will provide law enforcement agencies ease of access in analyzing the data.
State Police troops A in Baton Rouge, B in New Orleans, C in Gray and D in Lake Charles already have begun submitting reports to the system, as have the Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Bogalusa, Gonzales and Denham Springs police departments and the Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge and St. Tammany parishes sheriff’s offices.
The Lafayette Police Department has the system in place, but the agency’s information technology department wants to rectify a few glitches with the system before it’s rolled out, Lafayette police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said.
The state Highway Safety Commission should finish training select officers from each agency by the end of April, and those officers will in turn be responsible for training other officers from their department to use the system, Miller said.
The state Department of Transportation and Development also has funded another $2 million project to upgrade the state’s testing systems, with State Police Troop A, of the Baton Rouge area, set to receive the first upgrade by the end of April.
Agencies that use blood-alcohol testing devices — and not all of them do, although information regarding those agencies was not immediately available Monday afternoon — will be upgraded from the Intoxilyzer 5000 of the mid-1990s to the latest model, the Intoxilyzer 9000, said Lt. Mike Edgar, who heads Louisiana State Police’s Applied Technology department.
The current models in use feature only a small display to showcase the reading of the person’s blood-alcohol content, while the new instruments are touch-screen computers that will be connected to a state server that stores the readings. Before, state agents had to manually input those blood-alcohol content readings every couple of months, Miller said.
“It’s gonna be a big step forward for getting breath test results,” Miller said. “It’s gonna really bring us up into the 21st century.”
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.