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San Gabriel Valley Digest

El Monte : Quickest Tapes in the West?

February 27, 1986

Every time a police officer here goes out on patrol, he carries his gun, his night stick and another vital piece of equipment--his tape recorder.

El Monte, which began the practice about 15 years ago, was one of the first and remains one of the few police departments in the state to arm its officers with tape recorders to speed the otherwise time-consuming and tedious process of generating reports, according to Thomas O. Millet, the assistant chief.

Instead of spending hours writing reports at the station or parked at a curb, officers may dictate reports while on the move. Millet said officers are encouraged to park their squad cars while dictating, but they still can look around. The tape recordings are transcribed at the station by secretaries.

Millet said the practice saves about two hours a day for each patrolman. Moreover, dictated reports are more thorough than written ones, he said. "When you have to write, you make it as brief as possible."

Among the other departments in the state using taped reports are Azusa, Baldwin Park, Pomona and Whittier, said Whittier Chief James Bales, who is president of the California Police Chiefs Assn.

Of course, the program does have its drawbacks. Tape recorders take considerable abuse during the rough and tumble of police work. Repair costs were so high last year that on Tuesday the El Monte City Council decided against making repairs this year and gave the Police Department permission to spend the $2,500 previously allocated for repairs on new, less expensive, machines.

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