"I wanted our department to be as mobile as possible," Carter said. "So I put in for a Department of Justice grant for a wireless computer-based system to streamline our work."
Finally last year, the grant was completed and Clay County had $100,000 to upgrade the dispatch system. The system now used by Clay County is the only one of its kind in the world.
Through many hours of work, the Clay County Sheriff's office is now able to dispatch a police car without speaking a word over the radio. However, if needed, the data radio can be used for dispatch. Data radio is the fastest movement of data currently available. The radio does still use a tower, located near Center Point.
Also, the dispatcher can see on a computer monitor where all sheriff's cars are within the county. To accomplish that, each sheriff's car is equipped with an installed Geographic Information System, which pinpoints where each car is, its direction of travel and its speed.
Besides the Clay County deputies being connected to this system, Paul Harden, conservation officer, is also on line.
"When we had the grant approved, we decided we wanted the entire system," Carter said, and the entire system works well.
When the dispatcher sends a message to a deputy, it immediately comes up on his computer. With the push of a key, the deputy responds, and he is on the way to the incident.
"Our deputies can type a report and submit it to the prosecutor or the jail, or both electronically," Carter said. "It cuts down on the amount of time the officer spends doing paperwork."
With just the pushing of a few buttons, Carter called up a vandalism report submitted by a resident in Center Point in 1999. The department has been inputting data from incidents into a computer for the past 10 years, and now that data is available to every county officer from his laptop.
Futuristic as it may seem, it isn't over yet. Computers can be used to chat, check e-mail, and it will even talk to the officer if he can't take time to pull over and stop.
The laptop computers in the sheriff's cars will be able to access the FBI's National Crime Information Center's computer, as well as being able to call up mug shots and instantly tell if a vehicle is stolen.
"Within two years, we will be able to scan in a thumb print of a suspect, and check that print through the NCIC computer for a match," Carter said. As a matter of fact, the newer driver's licenses have a bar code on the back which gives the officers instant access to the data on the holder of the license. The newly-designed automobile license tags also have a bar code which can be accessed through the computer.
Carter demonstrated the speed of the laptops in the vehicles by entering his personal vehicle's license number. In about eight seconds, the information came back on the computer. Dispatcher's computers take about 12 seconds to retrieve the same information.
"This system has streamlined the necessary paperwork as well as made our department more efficient with a quicker response time," Carter said. "The system is working so well, the Terre Haute Police Department is currently evaluating the system."
Another benefit of the system is the ability to follow the sheriff's deputies vehicles if they are in a high-speed chase. During those chases, deputies have to concentrate on every turn instead of reporting to the dispatcher his every move.
Carter said he would like to see other county vehicles such as the highway department, ambulance and fire department hooked up to the system. The system, Automatic Vehicle Locator, is currently only used by the Clay County Sheriff's Department within Indiana.
With the correct hardware, the system can monitor suspected drug dealers or the units can be placed on cars that are susceptible to being stolen.
"The system can keep a log of all deputy's vehicles' activities," Carter said. "Using the system, I can tell, for example, if my deputies are speeding or not." Carter does not condone speeding unless it is an emergency by his deputies.
There has been some negative feedback from the deputies, Carter said, however, for the most part it is accepted by them.