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Officers show off new scanning tool
New technology allows police to better document deadly crashes
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Officer Keith Kitcher shows Vice Mayor Bret Durossette a device with the Leica TS02 Total Station that can take measurements at the scene of a fatal accident or homicide. The officer participated in a demonstration at the March 10 City Council meeting. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Ceres police are investigating traffic accidents now with technology that replaces the unreliable and cumbersome tape measuring system.

"We've used some very old-fashioned techniques to document a fatality scene," said Ceres Police traffic Officer Jason Coley before a March 10 City Council meeting presentation.

The traffic unit was formed in 1984 with two officers to enforce traffic laws, reduce crashes and provide safety education to youth and drivers as well as investigate all traffic accidents, including fatalities. Before the new equipment - called the Leica TS02 Total Station - came into the department's possession, investigating officers have had to rely on 100-foot steel tapes that took lots of time and fraught with error. The officer had to then transfer the information to a sketch for court.
"It was very difficult and we all got it done because we had to," added Coley.

A grant obtained through the "Avoid the 12" DUI enforcement program enabled the city to buy the new equipment. Ceres Police is the head agency for the "Avoid the 12" program and received extra monies for equipment from the state Office of Traffic Safety. The new unit cost $9,500.

"It's going to make our job a lot easier," commented Coley.

The system uses a laser to point at items - such as victims' bodies, wrecked cars, road signs and other debris - and determine distance. The information can then be extrapolated into a data collector and downloaded into software and transfer onto a diagram of the accident scene.

"Not only will this help our department with traffic collisions but we can also use it in homicide scenes. So it's going to be very important ... that we keep using this to get more proficient at it."

Police Chief Art deWerk said his department has continually pushed for new technology "which makes for an excellent traffic unit and an excellent department."