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Video system unveiled
Cuts costs for court and sheriffs office
3 Magistrate Court pic1
Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Thurmond talks with Dawson County Sheriffs officer Rick Kipfmiller via a new video conferencing system. Put in place earlier this month, it allows the court to hold first appearance hearings without inmates leaving the detention center. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

A new program is saving Dawson County Magistrate Court and Sheriff's Office time and money.

Designed by Icon Software Corp., the new EZ Warrant system brings officers and judges together through video conferencing to secure warrants and hold first appearance hearings.

Dawson County Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Ramsey said the system has nearly cut the time in half for officers seeking arrest and search warrants.

"It's been very beneficial all around," he said. "Search warrants have to be done in a timely manner to get the judges signature so we can go out and execute them.

"Time efficiency is huge. Instead of having the officers leave their office to go seek a judge, we now can handle all of our business through this system, including the signature."

The system also keeps deputies in their patrol zones, rather than requiring them to visit magistrate court to have criminal warrants signed.

"This is very convenient," said Deputy Todd Day.

Operating on ICON's secure network, the system can be accessed from various locations throughout the county.

"I had one officer this weekend ask if he could file the warrant from his iPhone and he could," said Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Thurmond, who worked with the company to design the program to be specific to Dawson's needs.

The new system also eliminates the need to take inmates to Magistrate Court or the courthouse for first appearance hearings.

"Anytime you can reduce inmate movement, it results in increased officer safety," said Major Jeff Johnson, jail commander.

"Now inmates never leave the secure areas of the detention center to attend first appearance hearings."

There are video conference stations at the court, in the sheriff's criminal investigations division, the detention center and at the district attorney's office.

In addition to time and manpower, Thurmond said the system has also saved the court money.

"We're actually saving about $3,000 a year with this system, because we're no longer having to pay judges mileage to go back and forth to Magistrate Court," she said. "We were able to do this within our budgeted amount and I actually saved money.

"It is a better system than we had before," she added.