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Technology changes keep Sheriff's office updated

YATES COUNTY—Sheriff Ron Spike has seen a lot of changes during the 38 years he has been in law enforcement. Technical changes have been at the top of changes in recent years.
One of the first advances is DNA testing. Spike said, “It’s significant as a value to the criminal justice system for finding out if people are guilty or not guilty.”
Another technical advance is the Live Scan. Spike said, “There is no more ink for fingerprints which has been used since the turn of the century. The scan can also take digital mug shots.” Both the fingerprints and photos can be transmitted to Albany and Washington D.C. and within minutes, local law enforcement will know who the person is and if they are wanted.
Spike said, “It’s amazing. It’s huge in our business when things can be faster.” He added, “Thank goodness for grants. We have 10 or 12 in now. It’s the only way to move ahead.”
A grant  resulted in the funds needed for the $34,000 cost of the Live Scan machine. The local office is facing a New York State requirement to do civil fingerprinting  using the same system by the end of the year which will cost an additional $6,000.
Communication is a big issue for law  enforcement. Spike said, “By the time you are current with state of the art, something has changed.” New technology makes it possible to connect mobile units to the system Main Street in Penn Yan. New cellular modems for all law enforcement in Yates County is 10 times faster than the previous system. Spike said the department is looking to transfer information from patrol cars wirelessly. Another change in the cars is electronic ticket writing. The tickets may now be typed into the car laptop, printed in the car and transmitted to the office. They also have a scanner for drivers licenses and vehicle registrations.
Training is another area that can be grant-funded with a lot of training now being accomplished through satellites.
Speaking of the grants, Spike said, “We don’t have to hit the local taxpayer for the money. I feel an obligation to do more with less but still stick to the mission to provide the staff and the tools to do the job.” Most of the grants are written either by Spike or by Chief Deputy Howard Davis. While the grant funds help tremendously, they also require a good deal of management time.
The need for equipment updates is ongoing. Spike spoke about the 911 system which was put in service in 1992. He said, “That equipment needs updating or replacement. The manufacturer is no longer supporting repair and we’re looking at how to handle it.”  Radio consoles were also state of the art in 1994 and this is not the way it is done now. Touch screen radios have replaced the old ones. Most cars are equipped with Automated External Defibrillators (AED), the final four are on order.
Spike said they are the same units that are used by local ambulance corps. He said, “Often a patrol car closest to the incident can respond.”
When Spike first became a deputy in 1970, patrol cars were equipped with portable radios. He said, “Once you were out of the car no one could reach you.” Unlike those days or the old TV show “Car 54, where are you?,” an automatic vehicle locator now allows dispatch to know where cars are. The source of incoming calls has changed as well. Spike said more 911 calls are received from wireless sources now and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) on cell phones locate and map the location of the phone. With all these changes, Spike called communication, “A huge improvement. Now cell phones are as good as it gets.“
Grants came up often during the discussion. Spike said he wrote a legislative grant for $40,000 to purchase a judgmental shooting program, calling it, “A way to do a shoot/don’t shoot on a video.” Another grant through Homeland Security allowed updating all deputies with state of the art protective gear.
Weapons have changed greatly over the years as well. Spike said .38 revolvers were the common weapon years ago, calling them, “At the time, a big deal.” About 20 years ago the switch was made to pistols. Spike said advancements in weaponry have improved accuracy. He said there has been a lot of research into non-lethal weapons. Options in the “tool bag” also include tasers, which use an electrical charge to subdue individuals in certain situations and expandable batons. Although weapons are a necessary part of their work, Spike said, “It’s all about not having to use lethal force.”
Spike said he has to look out for efficiency, production and officer and citizen safety, noting the last two must be balanced. Asked what is most important, Spike said, “These officers are my best asset when I look at public safety. Often their work is taken for granted or forgotten. I appreciate the work they do. I don’t want to see anyone hurt.”
There is one thing that hasn’t changed in Spike’s nearly four decades in law enforcement; handcuffs. He said the design of this very small equipment has never changed.


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