Athens Review, Athens, Texas

May 16, 2013

iPads trim costs

JPs to use devices at inquests and traffic accidents

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

ATHENS — Keeping pace with new technology, Henderson County Justices of the Peace can potentially save thousands of dollars through the use of iPads.

Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Dale Blaylock said new technology can eliminate the need for some autopsies, saving the county $3,000 each time.  They can also streamline the JPs’ work in other ways.

“Southwest (Institute of Forensic Science) said they’d rather talk to us on the phone and tell us, than for us to send the body up there. They say they’ve got plenty of bodies to do autopsies on.”

Blaylock explained that JPs around the state have a technology fund that comes from fees assessed in criminal convictions.

“Taxpayers didn’t spend a dime on this,” Blaylock said. “Criminals are paying for it.”

Before the county voted to purchase the iPads, Blaylock had been using his own Android Zoom on the job, then told the County Information Technology Committee how useful the device was in the field.

“I proved the system works,” Blaylock said. “I showed the IT committee what I was doing, and asked to use some of JP technology money to replace my own.”

Commissioners Court followed the IT committee recommendation, and voted to equip all five JPs with iPads. At a cost of $600 each, the county can outfit all five JPs for $3,000.

“When I took office, about 12 years ago, the county was budgeting about $40,000 a year for autopsies. That amount is now $240,000 a year,” Blaylock said.

Blaylock plans to show the iPad potential to the JPs who are not already using them.

“We can probably save the county $100,000 just by using it,” Blaylock said.

Blaylock said he was recently called to check on a deceased person. He sent a copy of the information he gathered to a doctor at the forensic institute.  The doctor looked at the notes, and said it would be good if he could see the body. Blaylock took a picture and sent it by e-mail.

The doctor was able to see from the picture that a portion of the man’s body had turned purple due to a plugged artery that caused a massive heart attack.

The device was also useful after a recent wreck where two teen boys were killed in Gun Barrel City, Blaylock said.

“I used it on the scene, and was able to take pictures, and send a copy to the investigating agency,” Blaylock said. “They have a full copy of my report with additional pictures.”

Blaylock recalled another incident where he helped find family members of a man who had died near Seven Points. The deceased lived in a 24-foot camping trailer, and worked as a handy man around the trailer park. When he died, no one knew how to contact his family members.

“The county would have had to pay for a paupers’ funeral,” Blaylock said.

Using the man’s name and Social Security number, Blaylock found two women in Ohio who appeared to be related to the deceased.  Blaylock called one of the women, and asked if she knew the man. She had not seen her father in more than 20 years.

“They had closure, and saved the county the cost of burying him,” Blaylock said.