Officer helps put Berwyn Heights police on the map
July 21, 2005
Courtney A. Burns
Staff Writer

Greg Dohler/The Gazette

Cpl. Richard Hartnett of the Berwyn Heights Police Department
installed mobile technology in his cruiser that allows him to scan
driver's licenses and print citations.



Berwyn Heights Police Cpl. Richard Hartnett recently added effective public speaker to his list of accomplishments and skills.

Hartnett, 45, addressed the Maryland Municipal League conference in Ocean City June 26-29 about the legal use of motor scooters.

Hartnett created a Web page devoted to the state laws for motor scooters, scooters and mopeds, bringing attention to the subject and making him a speaker the MML asked to discuss it.

"It went really well," he said of the conference. "It was the first class at the conference. I had never been to MML before and it was a packed house, about 50-60 people."

Hartnett's interest in the scooters was sparked when a Berwyn Heights resident came into the police station about eight months ago to ask if the "pocket rocket" motor scooter he bought for his son was legal.

"The sad part was that there was a room full of cops and none of us knew," Hartnett recalls.

But the Bowie resident quickly grabbed a law book and started to research the issue.

Hartnett said most motor scooters, which he describes as "dressed up mopeds without pedals," are acceptable if their engine is under 50 cubic centimeters. Maryland State law does not require motor scooters to have tags or insurance but a resident must have a driver's license or a Moped operator's permit to drive one.

His seven pages of research can now be viewed on the Berwyn Heights Police Web site, which he also created in 1999. Hartnett said most people tell him that his Web page puts the laws into language that is easy to understand. And many municipalities have viewed it all over the state and country, he says.

"The Calvert County's Sheriff's Department put the page on their Web site and the Talbot County Sheriff's Department made a class out of the information," he said. "Even big department's like Greenbelt tell people who have questions to check out the Berwyn Heights Web site."

Hartnett said he doesn't mind if people use his material, as long as they credit the Berwyn Heights Police Department. He said that in fact, Berwyn Heights does not have a big problem with motor scooters, so he is glad when other departments use it.

Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo said when people at the conference learned he was from Berwyn Heights they associated the town with Hartnett's work.

Berwyn Heights Chief Patrick Murphy described Hartnett as "an extremely valuable employee."

"We're glad to have him, and you have to remember that's not his primary job," he said. "His primary job is as a patrol officer."

Hartnett has been working full-time as a town police officer since 2000, but has been working part-time and full-time off and on for the last 13 years.

In between going out on calls, Hartnett has been devoted to improving the department's technology.

The accomplishments he is most proud of are creating one of the first computerized versions of the Maryland Automated Accident Report and the first Computerized/Electronic traffic citation in the state.

The accident reports have over 400 fields with coded answers for an officer to fill out by hand whenever there is a major accident. Hartnett's version includes drop down menus that makes filling out the forms faster and more efficient.

The State Police Department, who deals with all the accident forms, approved Hartnett's form and allowed the Berwyn Heights police to use it.

"[Hartnett] has established us a leader in the state as for as computer technology," Murphy said.

The electronic citations were another project that Hartnett, whose computer skills are self-taught, worked long and hard on.

The tickets issued for running a red light or speeding must all go to the state court system and be kept on file, therefore there is a standard ticket that all police departments must fill out.

Hartnett started by mounting a small printer in town police cars that printed up tickets for local citations for parking violations. He then developed his own version of the state citation.

After sending his ticket to the court system in Annapolis, he received dozens of messages requesting that he come and demonstrate his program.

"The Chief Judge of Maryland James N. Vaughn said that it should have been done 10 years ago," Hartnett recalls.

Vaughn granted Berwyn Heights permission to pilot the electronic tickets in town and now Hartnett serves on the eCitation Initiative, part of the State Justice Information System Department. The committee is composed of six engineers, Hartnett and some state representatives who are working to create a statewide electronic citation system.

"It's a really cool thing to be involved with," he said. "And it's based on my creation, the Berwyn Heights model."

E-mail Courtney A. Burns at cburns@gazette.net.