FIELD DATA ENTRY FOR CIVIL PROCESS

The Colonial Heights Sheriff’s Office has recently completed the development and installation of a Field Data Entry project for the entry and tracking the service of civil process papers.  This project utilizes computer tablets in the field and a docking station at the Sheriff’s Office to track the service of each civil process paper received by the Colonial Heights Sheriff’s Office.  Partial funding for this project was provided by a grant through the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

The initial step of this project was to review agencies that utilize their computer system to track civil process services.  Several agencies were using various software programs to track civil papers, but none had implemented the use of computer tablets for the field entry of civil process papers.  Sheriff’s Office personnel, Captain Janice Pattison and Deputy Donald Hannuksela, visited several Sheriff’s Offices and researched the software in use at each location.  Users and data entry personnel were interviewed and information was collected regarding the pros and cons of each system.

After an intensive review of the various systems and information collected from the agencies, the decision was made to use Shield Technology software.  Shield Technology was the software currently in use by the Colonial Heights Police Department for the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and Records Management System (RMS).

The initial planning of the project revealed that several different departments in the City of Colonial Heights, as well as different vendors, would be needed to finalize the plans for this project.  Additionally, a network connection needed to be established between the Colonial Heights Courthouse, City Hall, the Colonial Heights Police and Fire Departments, where the CAD and RMS server is located.

The Sheriff’s Office worked closely with those necessary to ensure that the project would ultimately function as planned; and to have a seamless transition with the current CAD and RMS in use.

Several meetings were held prior to the development of the action plan and grant submission to ensure the success of the project.

After the submission of the grant package, the Sheriff’s Office was enthusiastic to be awarded funding from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to make this project a reality.

One of the first steps was to connect the Colonial Heights Courthouse to City Hall which gained us access to the CAD and RMS server at the Public Safety Building, which is next door to City Hall.  This was accomplished by establishing a T-1 connection from Verizon Telephone, linking the Courthouse to the city’s domain.

The next step was the development of software from Shield Technology, which would provide for the import and export of data from the computer tablets in the field to the CAD/RMS server, utilizing a docking station in the Sheriff’s Office.   While Shield Technology was writing the necessary software, Deputy Donald Hannuksela was developing and revising the necessary codes to be used to indicate the various types of civil process papers to be tracked, the types of services available on the civil papers, as well as the type of returns.  Additional Sheriff’s Office personnel reviewed the codes and offered input to make the codes user friendly.

As Shield Technology was developing the software, bids were advertised for vendors of the software and hardware needed to complete the network and to facilitate the purchase of four computer tablets and related equipment. Once the courthouse network was established and the Courthouse was connected to the CAD/RMS server, data entry of civil process papers was implemented in stages.

First, all outside jurisdiction papers (not issued by a Colonial Heights Court), with the exception of witness subpoenas, were entered by the Sheriff’s Office Administrative Assistant, Susy McDonald.  The initial entry of papers started in March 2009.  Those papers were then served and removed only by Deputy Hannuksela initially to insure the consistency of the import and export of papers to the server.

As the entry of papers progressed, additional papers from the Colonial Heights Courts were added to the system.  Starting in May, additional Deputies were trained and started the entry of service information utilizing the tablets in the field.  By the end of the year, the Colonial Heights Sheriff’s Office had used the new system for several months, and was able to document the service of over 6,000 papers.

The daily use of the tablet starts in the morning with the Deputy placing a computer tablet in the docking station and extracting all the outstanding papers needing service.  After removing the tablet from the docking station, the Deputy uses a stylus and drop down menus in the field, to indicate the date, time and type of service, etc. on each paper he/she serves.  Once returning to the office, the tablet is again place in the docking station and the data on the served papers is updated to the server.

The tablets were purchased and designed with a blue tooth GPS program that allows the deputies to locate addresses while serving papers and to locate jails and medical facilities while transporting inmates.  Future up-grades are planned for this project.  The tablets can also utilize an air card, so that the service data can be uploaded to the CAD server in real time.   Incident reports can also be completed by Deputies on the tablets, downloaded and printed at the office.

Many thanks go to those assisting the Sheriff’s Office by providing invaluable information and guidance during this project.  Some of the key participants from within the City were Karen Saunders, of the City of Colonial Heights Information Technology office; Lewis Archileti, Director of the City of Colonial Heights Communications Center; Judi Whitt, City of Colonial Heights Purchasing Office who helped with the bids for the vendors; Bill Johnson and Kathy Sparks of the Colonial Heights Finance Office who helped greatly with the budget and grant funds.

Those outside the City departments, providing valuable information on this project, included Jake Wolfe, Sales Director for Southeast Sales who directed the configuration and development of the computer tablets; Dennis Kao, President/CEO of Proactive Information Management completing the network and T-1 connections; and Nancy Wood and Sandy Olsthoorn of Shield Technology.

Thanks go to Sheriff Todd B. Wilson, for allowing his staff the time to develop this project and by supporting us during the implementation phase.  If you need further information on this project or have any questions, please contact the Colonial Heights Sheriff’s Office at (804) 520-9352 or via email at [email protected]

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