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Kandiyohi County begins new digital 'e-charge' pilot program

WILLMAR -- A pilot project to "e-charge" individuals for crimes gets under way next week in Kandiyohi County.

Starting Monday, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will be in Willmar to set up the computer software and train officials from law enforcement, the county attorney's office, court administration and judges before the system is put online Thursday.

When it's up and running, police reports, criminal complaints, signatures from law enforcement, prosecutors and judges and notarization of documents will all be done electronically.

Currently, those thick piles of paper documents are hand-delivered from department to department with law enforcement spending considerable time and gas driving from the downtown courthouse to the county Law Enforcement Center on the north end of town.

"The thing physically goes from point A to point B to point C," said County Attorney Boyd Beccue. The officers "burn gas to get here."

This project will enable the county to "charge crimes" without running a lot of paperwork back and forth, he said.

The new system should save the state courts money. There will also be savings in time and gas for local law enforcement and paper and printing supplies at the county offices, said Beccue.

Beccue said some criminal cases involve printing hundreds of pages of paper for document disclosures. The cost of paper and printer toner should be reduced for the county when digital files are used.

Additionally, the e-charge system is expected to reduce human errors because court administration will not have to re-enter data, said Beccue.

The court system has been gradually easing into the electronic era with electronic access to court files.

For the last several months the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Department and Willmar Police Department have been sending most police reports digitally to the county attorney's office.

But Beccue said it will be a "major leap" for those who have used the conventional paper system to go digital.

He said the computer software involved with the system is "unbelievably complex" and that there may be a few "rough spots" until the kinks are worked out of the system.

Kandiyohi County is the second of four pilot counties in the state to go live with the program, said Tom Miller, the e-charging project manager with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. St Louis County was the first.

Kandiyohi County was chosen to be a pilot county because it is big enough to have an adequate number of cases and small enough to not create huge challenges, he said. "The staff has been absolutely excellent out there to work with. They're very professional."

A successful launch here will help ease the way to implement the program in another 56 counties, said Miller. Eventually the system will be used statewide.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved a joint powers agreement for the program this week.

In other action this week:

n The commissioners approved a sanitary sewer agreement with the city of Kandiyohi to extend service from the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District.

n Beccue told the commissioners that a team of six county employees with expertise in child abuse cases have been chosen to attend child abuse prevention training. There are no tuition fees and other expenses are being covered with money from the county attorney's forfeiture fund.

n A permit for a demolition landfill near Hawick for JMBI was approved. The business is required to have $3.7 million in financial assurance over a 10- to 20-year period.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750